Black History Month: The Redux -Public Enemy

28 days ain’t enough. Based on my research as a history teacher and human, I will be using the month of July to periodically post about a figure or group that you may or may not have heard of, but who has left a critical imprint on American society. Feel free to comment and spread the message with friends and loved ones. Suggestions welcome. Focus on the roots–don’t worry about the branches.

Welcome to the Terrordome

1-Public Enemy

Chuck D and Flava Flav were the founding members of the socially conscious, hard hitting hip-hop duo, Public Enemy. Matched with the best hype men ever and blessed with a deep, commanding voice and unrelenting flow, Chuck D had a way of rhythmically ripping truth from its captors and holding it in your face until you understood.

Remembered as the greatest political rap group of all time, songs like “Rebel Without a Pause,” and “Bring the Noise,” addressed themes such as presidential impeachment and black incarceration respectively. In addition, rap in the late 80’s and early 90’s enjoyed a proliferation of black nationalism and Afrocentricity in its lyrics, neither of which were more evident than in Public Enemy’s music:

” ‘Cause I’m Black and I’m proud
I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped
Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps
Sample a look back you look and find
Nothing but rednecks for four hundred years if you check.”

Their greatest success came in 1989 with “Fight the Power,” a song director Spike Lee specifically requested for his joint, Do the Right Thing. “Fight the Power” called for awareness and encouraged, nay, demanded active participation in society from all listeners while breaking down social norms. “Elvis, was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me.” Most of my heroes don’t appear on stamps either, Chuck. Never forget, “They killed Radio Raheem!”

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