By Who, Thecyberkrib.com
Public Enemy is arguably one of the best known and most important groups in hip-hop. Following in the footsteps of the aggressive sound of groups like Boogie Down Productions and Run DMC, Public Enemy became well known for its musically and politically revolutionary and aggressive style. Fronted by Chuck D with DJ Terminator X and the original hype man Flava Flav, PE released their first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show in 1987. In 1988 they followed up with the critically acclaimed It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back followed in 1990 by Fear of a Black Planet and Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black in 1991. They received less critical acclaim for 1994's Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age and 1998's soundtrack to He Got Game. In 1999 they released There's A Poison Going On with online distribution only early in the online shopping age. This album got little publicity but was solid. In 2002, they released Revolverlution on Koch, but they are now ready to return strong in 2005 with Rebirth of a Nation on Guerrilla Funk, the label run by West Coast political rap pioneer Paris.
Paris also provides all of the production on this album. Having had a similarly aggressive sound himself, P-Dog knows exactly what sounds to bring to the table for Public Enemy. As a result, the album sounds like a coherent blend between the old Bomb Squad sound PE fans will be familiar with and Paris' own trademark Guerilla Funk sound.
This provides the perfect backdrop for lead MC Chuck D, who is at his best in full stride attacking a hard beat. Despite all of his troubles, Flav continues to be the perfect counterpoint to Chuck's deep, strident tones, while also ensuring that there is some straight fun on the album. It is great to have an incredibly serious subject matter broken up with some humor and just plain good fun. Paris also makes several welcome and powerful vocal appearances on the album, along with guests dead prez, Kam, MC Ren of the legendary N.W.A., the Conscious Daughters, Capleton and Immortal Technique. With a line-up like that, one can only expect the album to be top-notch, and PE does not disappoint.
"Raw Shit," the first track on the album lets the listener know right away that PE is back and not playing around. The awesome onslaught continues with "Hard Rhymin'" and "Rise." The use of samples is also brilliant, including recordings from the Million Man March on "Can't Hold Us Back." Paris takes a brilliant solo turn on "Hannibal Lecture" and "Rebirth of the Nation" is classic PE at their best (beats AND rhymes) over a driving beat with a hard guitar riff.
Not only are almost all of the tracks on this album amazing, but they are also arranged perfectly. Chuck spends his mic time addressing very serious issues without the listener ever feeling overwhelmed. He has a keen understanding and appreciation of the fact that music is supposed to make you move body and soul. Breaking the songs up with the different voices and approaches of Paris, Flav and guest artists also ensures that the listener doesn't get overwhelmed with Chuck at any point. The Enemy also reiterate that they are willing to do and say whatever it takes to "Make it Hardcore," right before Flav breaks the mood for a moment with the hilarious "They Call Me Flava." Chuck then addresses the "Plastic Nation" where women are convinced that they need to go under the knife to be attractive before Paris discusses how politicians lie and fool the public on "Coinsequences." The album even closes strong with the slightly more laid back "Invisible Man" and the brilliant posse cut "Rules of Engagement."
Rebirth of a Nation marks the triumphant return of one of the most unapologetic, most influential, most unafraid groups in hip-hop history. With the able backing of Paris, they are able to recreate the impact they once had, while remaining relevant to today's hip-hop audience. While they may (still) not get a lot of radio play or support from video outlets, PE remains important, and with this album prove that the fire still burns, the revolution continues, and that being conscious and addressing the hard truths the world faces are still viable. If you call yourself a hip-hop fan, you owe it to yourself to give this album at least several serious listens.
Out of 5