Looking to move on from the block-party atmosphere of old school rap and eager to vent their frustrations with the ’80s version of the inner-city blues, a select few hip-hop groups merged deft rhymes with political philosophy to create a new style of Rap. Inspired by ’70s political preachers from the Last Poets to Gil Scott-Heron, Public Enemy were the first and best of the political rap groups.
Frontman Chuck D… twisted rhymes better than any other rapper to date, all the while taking to task the government (“Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” “Fight the Power”, the culture of white America (“Rebel Without a Pause,” “Burn Hollywood Burn”), and all sorts of specific sociopolitical issues (“911 Is a Joke,” “Night of the Living Baseheads”) over the sonic terrorism of PE’s production crew, the Bomb Squad. KRS-One and his group, Boogie Down Productions, began speaking out as well, with brutal broadsides like “Illegal Business” and “Stop the Violence” that spoke to the black community as well as the leaders of the free world. What looked to be a fertile new ground for exploration, however, proved remarkably short-lived. Public Enemy trailed off after 1991, and despite great recordings from a new generation of political rappers (Poor Righteous Teachers, Paris, X-Clan, Coup and Dead Prez), the commercial explosion of a new hip-hop sound — gangsta rap or G-funk — made record labels less adventurous about nonestablishment/ anti-psychological incarceration messages.
In 1987 when Public Enemy stepped on the scene with their debut album “Yo! Bumrush The Show”, they shocked the world. No one knew they would be recognized as one of the most controversial groups in the history of rap. Now 12 albums later, millions of records sold and performances in over 40 countries, the group is still doing their thing with their latest release, Rebirth of a Nation, featuring West Coast rebel rap artist, Paris.
The group started out with the front man Chuck D, the side-show Flava Flav, Terminator X (DJ) and the Minister of Information and leader of the S1W’s (Security of the First World), Professor Griff.
Excerpts from the Professor Griff Lecture Series