DP versus COMBAT JACK: Public Enemy

rock em sock em

Let’s Get Ready To RUMMMMMMBLE!!!

It was back during the end of the summer last year that I visited upon Combat Jack and his family in the heart of the new post-riot, post-racial Crown Heights. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and what could have been a perfect late summer cool out became a fierce yet friendly argument over substance and style.

Our opinions meshed and differed over Hip-Hop and the reasons for its decline and devaluation. At the same time we agreed that Hip-Hop was also alive and well in regions and places that we might have never expected. The arguments centered around old and new rap acts and the classics that are surely Hip-Hop’s legacy. We discussed at length some of the genre’s most influential groups. The Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul and the most important rap group in the history of Hip-Hop, Public Enemy.

The debate between Combat Jack and I wasn’t about the iconic status of P.E. since C.J. and I both share a mutual respect for the group’s achievements, but about which of their albums is the greatest. If you visit Combat Jack over at his site, Daily Mathematics, I am sure he will tell his side of the story. But before you waste your time over there reading his Rolling Stone hyperbole take my facts with you so that you will have a better understanding of why I chose ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’


If you had spent the majority of the 1980’s in and around the streets of New York City then you would remember that this was a town that simmered with racial unrest right below its glittering surface. NYC was just as populous then as it is today and it still held many elements that made it a cosmopolitan outpost. Though as soon as you left the island of Manhattan you were transported into neighborhoods that still reeled from the blackouts during the 1970’s. Urban blight was entrenched even before they were delivering crack to the ‘hood by the busloads.

Under this environment rap music was beginning to flourish, but it rarely addressed the conditions its artists emerged from with anything more than lip service. Being that was rap music, one might think that all it could bring to the table was words exiting lips. Public Enemy was the force that ushered in a new era of understanding about the urban centers that were being abandoned to poverty and depression. New York City was a focal point because it was not only the birth place of Hip-Hop but was a city where racial tension burst into the spotlight frequently.

public enemy

None of you will remember the name Willie Turks, or Eleanor Bumpurs, but you probably know of Michael Stewart and definitely Yusuf Hawkins. There was a steady stream of Blacks that were lynched by white mobs or the police and it appeared that there would never be justice for these victims. Oppressed people respond to their aggressors in different manners as you can see from the worldwide newsreels. The disenfranchised express their rage outwardly AND inwardly. Being Black in the center city was rough from all angles. It was the worst of times, yet it was still the best of times.

‘Fear Of A Black Planet’ is a summation of the Black experience during the 1980’s in America. Even more than ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions’ could have dreamed, ‘Fear’ tackles the issues dealing with the Black experience head on. Where ‘Nation’ makes your body rock, ‘Fear’ makes your brain tick-tock. Public Enemy crafted this masterpiece when they were directly inside the cross hairs, as their classic silhouetted logo suggests. No one has since been so brave and so bold as to stand up to the mainstream media machine as Chuck D did to defend the message of empowerment that his music describes.

‘Brothers Gonna Work It Out’

‘Fear’ gets right in the face of the haters who want to obfuscate what this group really represents. ‘Fear’ is so powerful because it is the last album of its kind. The Bomb Squad easily sampled over 100 songs to make this Public Enemy album. You would never be able to release an epic music disk this dense with how nowadays the industry litigates what artists may use which samples. The clearance costs alone would shelve this album. Public Enemy changed how we heard music on several different levels. Chuck D challenged you with his lyrics, while the Shocklee-helmed Bomb Squad challenged you to name that sample.

Welcome 2 The Terrordome

The main reason I have to place ‘Fear’ over ‘Nation’ is that while ITANOMTHUB is clearly a music rich masterpiece that challenged me to do the knowledge, FOABP was the album that challenged me to be a better man. This was the griot call to take the knowledge of self and use it for good. This was the herald of change almost twenty years prior to Obama. Hip-Hop music in its essence is the sound of the drum and the voice. Ancient and everlasting. ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’ is the zenith of Hip-Hop. Drums, percussion, horn hits, sampled and live, selected for resonance along with the voice of the messenger. Celebrating life.

Fight The Power

25 Responses to “DP versus COMBAT JACK: Public Enemy”

  1. i loved that vgame and still got my Hasbro original

    happy black history months


  2. Lion XL says:

    Honestly, they both are classics, and if they would have been dropped as a double album it wouldn’t of hurt either one.

    I see NATION as the album that talked to world about what was was goin down in the streeets and FEAR as the one that challlenged yopu do someting about it…neither would have its full impact with out the other ,despite the time difference between the two.

    But for just straight up fun, I still love Bum rush the show…….

  3. Lion XL says:

    D…remember when they filmed fight the power?, every dcept in Brooklyn was there……

  4. floodwatch says:

    Amen. By my estimations, FOABP-lovers are in the minority, though – let’s swim against this tidal wave together, DP.

  5. 40 says:

    Good write up DP. I look forward to reading CJ’s take. “Millions” & “Planet” are two amazing albums and I’ve used them many times as ambassadors to those who are uninitiated to hip-hop. In super simplistic terms I thought the glory of “Planet” was that it met and exceeds all expectations of following up one of hip-hop’s perfect albums in “Millions”. The other greatness of “Planet” as you said is that it perfectly caught the emotion of an era. One of the few albums I’d ever dare consider my generation’s “What’s Goin’ On”…

  6. The murder of Willie Turks is one of thee most fucked up and unjustly forgotten racial crimes in New York– in Brooklyn– history. They’re all horrible, of course, tho’ Yusuf Hawkins’ memory deserved better than the lousy film Spike Lee dedicated to him.

    This book, btw, has reps Willie Turks a couple times–


    Re: “Fear Of A Black Planet,” I’ll ride with DP (ll, as ya’ll say) and note the seemingly little known fact that the voice that says, slowly, “Fear. Of. A. Black. Planet.” is Gerard Cosloy, then and now the co-director of respected, mostly “indie rock” label, Matador (who also put out those pretty good Arsonists albums).

    He had a radio show on WFMU at the time and as “FOAB” kept getting delayed, he’d joke around by announcing that whatever other– obviously not PE– record was “Fear. Of. A. Black. Planet” and somehow someone in the Bomb Squad got a tape of it… ta-da!

    I give a lot of respect to the rest of PE’s output, tho’ Chuck’s taste in remixes isn’t mine, which buries 3-4-5 hot new tunes on otherwise highly suspect cds.

    Air Hoodlum!

    The Music Director
    Who Walk In Brooklyn

  7. Young Che says:

    This is a heavy debate. Millions hit you like a sledgehammer and had you hyped to do whatever. Fear instilled in you that sense of mission and purpose of what had to be done and why. It educated on level that is hard to describe. FEAR is the real.

  8. z_fx says:

    You’re completely right on this one. Fear Of A Black Planet is the PE apex.

    The real irony is that they were from Long Island! Middle class suburban kids always come with the most fire (II). See: The Clash.

    On another note: this is the best thing on the internet!


  9. mercilesz says:

    wow! now ur talking my language. Millions hands down. those tracks were made by people in their very late twenties(my age) who had just got dissed by mister magic and were hungry as fuck. the reason why suburban kids come with heat is because their parents have enuff money to spend on frivolous things like records and education. remember at that time rap was very sample driven.

  10. Pana says:

    ’88 was a great year for hip hop but damn it was a tuff year in NY as far as race relations. I remember it all too well…

  11. mercilesz says:

    I read CJ’s take on this debate. dope as well. Both of you have valid points. But coming from a Djs/beatmakers standpoint I know what records were put into making “Millions”…I own most of them. I know what manipulation it took in some cases to make those records sound like how they sounded. I broke bread with Keith and Hank earlier this winter in l.e.s and basically picked their brains about that record and what frame of mind they where in when they made it and why it sounded like that. It wasn’t just what they sampled it was how they sampled it and where it was used in/on the beat. Those dudes are genious and if one actually had the records that were used on Millions they would truly understand the genious of that classic LP. When I told Hank every track and soundbite it took to make Dont believe the hype his smile would get bigger with every next record I talked about. He was amazed that someone who was 7 at the time actually knew what records he had meshed together to create his masterpiece. And thats just one track. D is right when he says it would be shelved off of the samples alone nowadays but thats the beauty in the record a la 3 ft high and rising. all in all Millions got it because Millions is more playable start to finish and is the the start of the ending. peace.

  12. mercilesz says:

    oh and as far as race relations I know dudes in brooklyn who was just as scared of the decepticons as they were of police and bensonhurst…..we had a black mayor at least

  13. the_dallas says:

    Nation was the start to the ending. The ending was with the video for Fight The Power.

    For too long I was the Public Enemy to MY community. With Fight The Power I realized I had the power to be bigger and better. This is some shit that you just had to live first hand. To live and die right here in NYC.

    That’s dope that you tried to recreate the samples to that album but the DNA of dallaspenn.com is from them days when ground zero was where it had always been – Ralph Ave, Broadway Junction, N.A., Franklin Ave, Delancey Street, Pitkin Ave, Sutphin Ave.

    I’m not dismissing you for being a clone just like I’m not dismissing Combat Jack for being a D.C. resident back then. Y’all just don’t know the depths of hell and I hope y’all never do.

  14. Combat Jack says:

    ^ Them DC South East boys was gully DP. Straight ground zero. Back then, as hellish as NY was, DC didn’t have 1/2 the accommodations BK had. Was Murda Capital then, dismal as B’more stays now.

  15. Combat Jack says:

    AND I see how you didn’t list how several songs on Black Planet, like “Reggie Jax” was straight basura.

  16. the_dallas says:

    ^ Fear has more tracks totally and Nations has a couple that you have to skip over too. That Terminator X joint?!?

  17. mercilesz says:

    If I am a clone then everybody who ever sampled a record is a clone. I have no problem with that. Hip Hop recycles our parents music and I’m just saying that what they did with our parents music was genious. The beauty in that Terminator X record was that they took the same record they used for rebel without a pause and played it backwards and the shit was still hot. That takes ingenouity and brains and I loved/love it. I am not disssin anyone for not knowing the records it took to make these tracks(they are mostly over 30 yrs old) I am just acknowlegding the genious that it took for these dudes to put these tracks to come into being….Millions still got it hands down and I spent alot of time in BK as a child and one of my best friends growing up was in the fight the power video and the top billin remix video. I am from Newark Nj. That is Hell(Here) on earth. We share the same experiences.

  18. mercilesz says:

    oh and Yusef Hawkins was my homeboys cousin

  19. 40 says:

    DP – “Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic” was dope… From the Flash Gordon intro to the descending sax squeal from “The Grunt” and the black radio quotes – DOPE.

    I have to agree with CJ. The skippable track(s) on “Planet” were far more skippable.

    *off to CJ’s spot to read his drop*

  20. mercilesz says:

    recreate samples?….oxy-moron…its a sample….it’s a record…it will always be the same as when it was 1st pressed. The beauty is what one does with it.

  21. I should add that while I think “Jungle Fever” (dedicated to Yusef Hawkins) is a lousy movie, Spike and Chuck rose to each others’ occasion for the “Fight The Power” video–


    (Just in case there’s some kid reading this who ain’t got it internalized.)

    Funny to see the winter streetscape for a song that would open a summer movie but hey– hey!

    Also the great irony which older heads will recognize that these blocks of Bed-Stuy have been fucking lusted after by white– and white real estate, and their whores in the blog and print media– for some years now. That dude in Celtics jersey in “DTTR” was ahead of the curve but remember when “Brownstone” Brooklyn didn’t include Bed-Stuy at all? A few “nice” blocks of Fort Greene, maybe, but even they were “sketchy” (white code word for anyplace non-white people hang out, because they like being out, or don’t have, or don’t want to run fucking air conditioning 24/7 etc.)


  22. chief racka says:

    I remember Eleanor Bumpers getting cut down by the cops. They said she had a kitchen knife in her hand so they lit her up like Amadou Diallo. I remember reading that a gunshot ripped a finger off her hand. Late 80’s NYC was neighborhoods on the verge of a race war.
    Bring the Noise is the best pre-shower joint, btw.

  23. lola gets says:

    I was just listening to “Millions” in the shower this morning. I love PE in the am.


  24. elmattic says:

    Nation was that LP everyone can agree is dope, tight from start to finish, killer singles. Planet is the next artistic step and already they were leaving cats behind–more risky and diverse, and gets my vote.

    Remember also the Bomb Squad did Amerikkka’s Most that year. I remember a Chuck interview where he was asked about that and said he liked AMW better. So yeah, there’s a few skippable tracks but the sound is deeper, more organic, and it’s just a hella fine record.

    I remember that summer when everyone was pumping Rebel though and you could hear that squeal coming and going around practically every corner in NYC.

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