In 1996 after a decade as the front man for the legendary rap group Public Enemy, Chuck D released his first, and to date only, solo album. The thing about PE is that Chuck D was never known as being a particularly inventive lyricist, especially compared to the other great rappers of his era, such as Rakim or Big Daddy Kane. But what Chuck D stand out from the crowd was the power of his vocals and conviction in his words. When he shouted “Here it is, bam! And you say Goddamn, this is a dope jam!” You couldn’t help but take notice. But starting with Public Enemy’s previous album, Muse-Sick-N-Our-Mess-Age, released two years prior, I thought that Chuck D had shown significant progress as a rapper, which just added to the greatness of their songs. And this album continues that trend, as Chuck D raps better than ever, yet it was and remains sadly overlooked. And that’s why I’m reviewing this one first, before I get to any of the Public Enemy albums.
Released on Mercury/Polygram records, the album features 12 tracks:
1/MISTACHUCK Over a mid-temp bass-heavy bass, Chuck raps about his time in PE and his mission in hip-hop. A great introductory song.
2/NO The beat picks up the pace on this track, with a chorus that is both simple and brilliant. “The easiest and the hardest word to say is no, only got two letters, only takes a second to say it” I love this song.
3/GENERATION WREKKED “If I can’t change the people around me,
I change the people around me” Another thought-provoking track, Chuck rapping over a mellow beat about the sick mentality of far too many in the Black community. Especially as the social conscious raps of the 80’s made way for the gangsta rap of the 90’s. “A million doomed consumer who say they know they’re Black, threw their medallions back, in exchange for 40 dozen six packs.”
4/NIGGATIVITY, DO I DARE DISTURB THE UNIVERSE? While I don’t care for the N-word, or the other slurs he uses in this song, I can understand where Chuck is coming from (“I give a damn, so I curse”) in this scathing indictment of the state of the Black community and rap industry.
5/FREE BIG WILLIE Chuck raps about the perils of materialism over a smooth funky beat.
6/HORIZONTAL HEROIN Just a short little rap by Chuck’s PE cohort Professor Griff. Decent enough, but not really essential to the album.
7/TALK SHOW CREATED THE FOOL My 2nd favorite track on this album. This during the peak period of low-brow TV talks shows, like Jerry Springer and Rikki Lake, where you’d frequently have Black guest going on and parading their ignorant coonish behavior to the masses. Along with guest-rappers “ABNORMAL” and “C. BREWSER” Chuck D eviscerates the idiots who allowed themselves to be exploited, as well as the show hosts who did the exploiting. “Embarrass our asses and degrade/at the end of the date, ain’t that a b***h, Geraldo’s gettin’ paid.”
8/UNDERDOG Chuck rapping quite powerfully, and convincingly, how he’d rather rap about subjects of substance, and therefor be the “underdog” than just rapping about negativity and making money like other rappers.
9/BUT CAN YOU KILL THE NIGGER IN YOU? The title is pretty self-explanatory, in my opinion. Chuck addresses his critics. “Now you wanna kill me cuz my rhymes be true/But can you kill the nigger in you?”
10/ENDONESIA Chuck is joined by rappers B-WYZE and DOW JONZ, both of whom bring some very clever wordplay to this track with a bumping beat, while Chuck hold his own against these young cats.
11/THE PRIDE A mellow track with Chuck reminiscing about the good old days and giving a bit of a Black history lesson.
12/PAID Rappers KENDU and MELQUAN join Chuck on this thumping track, which is my 3rd favorite on this album, rapping about the exploitation of rappers by the music industry, and how they need to make sure they really get paid. “Record companies get the money and give you juice, then end up cuttin’ your ass loose.”
A great album, with creative lyrics and powerful production. It’s been slept on for far too long. Do yourself a favor and click on over to iTunes and get this.