What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?
Some years you have to wonder how Public Enemy sustains such righteous indignation. Others—let’s say 2020, just for example—you wonder why everyone isn’t as angry as they are. That they have strong thoughts on the 45th president of the United States isn’t surprising (“State of the Union”), nor is their crusade to uphold old-school values about hip-hop and art in a frictionless digital world (“Public Enemy Number Won,” “Toxic,” the Ice-T-featuring “Smash the Crowd”). The surprise is how vital, engaged, and unflinchingly on message Chuck D and Flavor Flav sound this side of their 60th birthdays, and on their prodigal return to Def Jam. If you think YG’s line “Pull the trigger, kill a negro/He's a hero” on the revamp of “Fight the Power” sounds hyperbolic, remember George Zimmerman and welcome to Kyle Rittenhouse. Breonna Taylor is mentioned, but because systemic racism comes in many forms and flavors, so are Craig Hodges and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. And if PE's politics seem preoccupying, listen to “R.I.P. Blackat”—their feelings about friends are just as strong. Yes, they’ve been confronting us with the same stark reality for more than three decades. But that’s not their fault, it’s the world’s. And that’s the double-truth, Ruth.