The year was 1994, Rap Music was taking a turn (some would say for the worse, but that’s a matter of opinion), as the West Coast was beginning to take over with the rise of Death Row records, and it’s G-Funk style was ensuring Gangsta Rap’s dominance. This was the year Snoop Doggy Dogg rapped about his love for GIN AND JUICE. “With my mind on my money and my money on my mind.” It was in this environment that Public Enemy released their 5th and, in my opinion, best album. With Muse-Sick-N-Hour-Mess-Age, PE took “social consciousness” to a whole ‘nother level, with scathing critiques at various moral failings in the Black community in general, and within the rap industry in particular, all set to some kick-ass beats from usual producers The Bomb Squad and others. Chuck D returns as the lead rapper, with Flavor Flav fulfilling his role as hype-man on most tracks, and the amazing Terminator X on the turntables.
1/Whole Lotta Love Goin on in the Middle of Hell
The album opens with this up-tempo tracks, with a faux-news report from 1999 with President [David] Duke of The United World States of Europe America declaring war on African people. Then Chuck D launches into a fast-paced blistering rap about how he’s not giving up and going to go down fighting. It’s deep.
2/Give It Up
“Fuck the forty ounce!” This mid-tempo track with have your head nodding along as Chuck schools the youth to give up the negative ways which hold them back. “Some ain’t gonna change, I got ’em in a range, I gotta rearrange, so I’m buildin’ back your brain.”
3/What Side You On?
“Some say fuck all that political shit but wanna get paid, when their brains in the second grade.” Another fast-paced tracked with a chorus that sound like their best call to action since Fight The Power.
This powerful track reminds me, musically, of PE’s earliest tracks, like You’re Gonna Get Yours, as Chuck raps about the apocalyptic state of the world.
5/What Kind of Power We Got?
Flavor Flav takes the lead as the rapper on this song, and does a pretty good job.
6/So Whatcha Gone Do Now
This is my all-time favorite PE song. Seriously.
7/Race Against Time
Fast song, lyrically it’s little odd. I think Chuck is rapping against vaccinations here. I’m not touching that one.
This song raps about how the Star Spangled Banner doesn’t mean much to Black Americans. “Land of the free home of the brave, and to Hell with us niggas we slaves”. Hard to argue with that.
9/Live and Undrugged, Parts 1 & 2
Another powerful rhyme from Chuck D, against the evils that plague our community.
10/Thin Line Between Law & Rape
“To sea to sea all over got the other man/messin’ with me, took me from the Motherland/Made a slave of my mother and man/got a good man sayin’ goddamn”
11/I Ain’t Mad at All
Another uptempo song where Flavor Flav takes lead. Nothing special, but a fun party track.
12/Death of a Carjacka
This is a little two-minute track about killing a man attempting to steal Chuck D’s car.
13/I Stand Accused
Chuck D striking back against his (& PE’s) critics.
Another Flavor Flav song that I could do without.
A powerful bomb track, where Chuck D talks of the genocide that followed Christopher Columbus to America, and compares celebrating Columbus Day to if we had a Hitler Day.
That’s it for the original full songs on this album, there’s also a few skits, half-tracks and a remix that I didn’t bother covering. But even with the few songs that didn’t leap out to me, I can listen to this album all the way through without skipping anything. Great music and the message that PE is trying to convey is clear throughout.