Review of Fear Of A Black Planet/It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back Album by Public Enemy

In terms of hip-hop's game changers, Public Enemy, along with NWA, must be the Beatles and The Stones of the genre, rewriting the rule books and forever altering the course of popular music. As part of the celebrations for Def Jam's 30th anniversary, the label are reissuing two of Public Enemy's biggest albums. The group's breakthrough album 'It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back', and its seminal follow up 'Fear Of A Black Planet', have been substantially enhanced with many added tracks, remixes and rare or unheard versions.

Public Enemy Fear Of A Black Planet/It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back Album

Both albums are politically charged, unflinching, challenging and innovative pieces of work. This is not the misogynistic, homophobic blinged up cribs and cars obsessed hip-hop that has come to dominate and define the scene over the ensuing years since Public Enemy's halcyon days. This is hip-hop with a voice and an attitude that was, and still is to a large degree, hard to resist and even more difficult to hold back. The themes of many of the songs may have centred around the disparity present between black and white communities in the US, racial tensions, media coverage and the wider frustrations of black youth in America, but the music, lyrical content, attitude and potency presented by PE meant that the songs found resonance across the world.

PE's debut album 'Yo! Bum Rush The Show' set the band on the way but it wasn't until the follow up in 1988 that they would really come to the attention of a much wider audience. With the release of 'It Takes A Nation...' PE truly arrived with tracks that included the critically acclaimed and much loved 'Don't Believe The Hype'  as well as the PE anthem 'Bring The Noise' (4 versions of which can be found on this re-issue).

Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and Terminator X made a sound that was unparalleled at the time. Not only did they use new techniques to pioneer their sound, they also used samples and soundbites to further enhance many of their tracks. Somewhat ironically, they have now become one of the most sampled bands, their loops and scores being some of the most memorable and 'iconic' in musical history.

With the release of their third album 'Fear Of A Black Planet', Public Enemy didn't just cement their place in hip-hop history they further enhanced it, taking it to another level. It's no wonder that this was their most successful album. The lead single 'Fight The Power' alone has become one of hip-hop's most lauded and loved tracks: Spike Lee was moved to use it as the theme tune to his controversial Oscar nominated 1999 film 'Do The Right Thing'. This is definitely no one track phenomenon, however. 'Brothers Gonna Work It Out', '911 Is A Joke', 'Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man' and 'Welcome To The Terrordome' are among some of the other stand out tracks to be found among the massive bundle that compromises this anniversary re-issue.

Public Enemy's most successful and critically acclaimed re-issued albums may be a must have for devoted PE fans but they are much more than that. They should compromise part of anyone's musical library; their music shaped and changed the course of popular music and has transcended its genre. It is little wonder that PE are inductees into the Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame or that 'Fear Of A Black Planet' was chosen for the Library Of Congress because the legacy and influence of the band and its music is huge.


Andrew Lockwood

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