It’s hard to believe that it has been twenty-five years since Public Enemy released its landmark debut album and first step towards stardom, Yo! Bum Rush the Show . Here’s a historic visual for you: on what used to be the coolest of music TV channels, Yo! MTV Raps hosted a live performance of Public Enemy doing “Rebel Without a Pause,” complete with Chucky D’s annunciated rhythmic delivery of overtly political lyrics, Flava Flav’s goofy hype-man antics, and the over-sized dangling clock necklaces. The legacy and impact is just now being realized.
Prior to Public Enemy putting its stamp on pro-black politically charged rap, the subgenre was defined by a few tracks by Ice-T, Grandmaster Flash, KRS-One, and soul poet Gil Scott Heron. As Public Enemy moved forward, it became revolutionary by utilizing dense, blaring sound collages and maintaining an entire image around the social and cultural political stance. Though not coined by the mainstream yet, “hip-hop” culture was being notched further.
“Rap is not a style of music, but a vocal style between talking and singing, [it’s] a bachelor pad that hasn’t been cleaned up in a while,” Chuck D said during a talk at the Akron, Ohio Public Library. “Hip-hop is the essence of black creativity that began in the mid-70s when New York City schools began to cut music programs, pushing the black community to develop its own musical culture as an outlet. It produced music, a style of dress, lingo, graffiti, [breakdancing], turntablism, deejaying, and emceeing.”
Public Enemy released It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back in 1988, which was voted Album of the Year by The Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll— the first hip-hop album to be ranked number one by predominantly rock critics in a major periodical. It is also ranked the 17th best album of all time (and best album of the 1980s) by Acclaimed Music. This was the height of their career, and controversy, which only fueled their popularity with a burgeoning hip-hop culture.
Here is the dense official bill as the poster reads: “The Biggest show of stars for classic rap” The hip-hop gods classic tour fest revue with Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, DJ Lord of Public Enemy along with S1WS & The Sounds of the banned and guests X-Clan, Monie Love, Schoolly D, Leaders of the New School, Poor Righteous Teachers, Son of Bazerk & No Self Control, Awesome Dre, Dave DMX, and DJ Jonny Juice.
This is a big show for Jackson, and by far the smallest market on the entire tour.
Showtime is 8 p.m., Sunday Dec. 9, at the Pink Garter Theatre. SOLD OUT. PinkGarterTheatre.com.