The PUBLIC ENEMY conference at N.Y.U. was definetly one for the books(literally and figuratively). To be inside an institution like NEW YORK UNIVERSITY and to witness actual academic discourse on this album made my month. The conference examined everything that contributed to the formulation of the music. From a technical standpoint, PUBLIC ENEMY revolutionized the music industry in 1998 the way NAPSTER did in 2000.
P.E.’s production team, THE BOMB SQUAD, might sample more than fifty(50) different records to produce just one P.E. track. They culled bits and pieces of music from everywhere imaginable. JAMES BROWN, JOHN DENVER, FUNKADELIC, STEELY DAN were just a few artists, but the discography and musicology of HANK SHOCKLEE is far too complex and diverse to be limited to just that. PUBLIC ENEMY music production techniques forced record companies to hire ‘spies’. These ‘spies’ would act as snitches and would listen to rap music just to detect the records that were being sampled. The recording technology was pushed forward as well because samplers were required to layer complex quilts of music. Eight tracks would no longer suffice to hold all the song being added. Twenty-four track recording devices were developed.
From a social standpoint, PUBLIC ENEMY gave the young black teenagers a powerful voice. We were not to be considered as simply consumers or commodities for the prison industrial complex. PUBLIC ENEMY was the promise and the potential that we might finally get our forty acres(in the era of Reaganomics too!). Crack and the DeCeptiCons had New York City on lock. The overall anxiety and tension in the streets put NYC into the top 5 urban centers for murder, crime and decay. The dark side of the Force that is corporate America had to finally take notice of rap music because the themes of partying and bullshit had changed to education and self-empowerment. P.E. never compromised their politics or apologized for their blackness. PUBLIC ENEMY was like LARRY DAVIS with a bangin’ azz soundtrack.
Instead of getting caught up in a reminiscent mood and stuck in some place 17 years ago I was reminded of why I love Hip-Hop music. The sound of the drum is first a call to listen and then a call to action. At it’s best, Hip-Hop music uses the drum to wake people up and inform them with ideas that are relevant to progress. At it’s worst, Hip-Hop music abuses the drum like an evil pied piper leading the children away from their communities into the belly of the beast which is the prison industrial complex.
As I listened to the radio lastnite, I heard 50 CENT and his partner-in-crime, TONY YAYO boast and brag about their acheivements in the music industry. They spoke openly about how they would crush and dismantle any opposing rap crews that attempted to remove them from their positions as industry sales leaders. Never once did they speak of any social leaders that they had created with all of their record sales. Maybe that part was coming, but before they could get to say it they were forced to exit the radio station abruptly to avoid confrontation and gunfire. Like I said earlier, PUBLIC ENEMY never had to compromise themselves and they never ran from anyone.
It’s unfortunate that the vehicle that so many can use to make a living is being driven by those that only wish to make a killing.
There is still some great Hip-Hop music being made and the drummer is super-nice with his shit too!