Public Enemy - Rebirth of a Nation
By Evocator Manes, 411mania.com
Hot collaborator seeking to make Public Enemy dangerous again. Apply within.
Rebirth Of A Nation
Someone is pissed and that someone is Paris. That someone is Chuck D. That someone is MC Ren. That someone is Immortal Technique and they're all here to lay it down. Someone lit a fire under the ass of Paris and he went apeshit, going ultra-political and highly revolutionary. Public Enemy has always been the most socially conscious rap outfit working and so it seemed a perfect fit. And it is, almost. It seems like one of those ideas that you sit around going, damn it would be great to have a high octane album with Chuck D ripping on Bush and the war and politics in general and produced by Paris, who will undoubtedly make that shit smoke. Or maybe what would it sound like for Public Enemy to do an album written completely by someone else? Would it sound like Public Enemy at all?
The answer is yes. It still sounds like Public Enemy, even though Chuck D contributed lyrics to only four of the songs here, the rest being written completely by Paris. Whatever his faults, not learning his history is not among them for Paris. He clearly has done his homework here, picking up samples from the illustrious past of Public Enemy, which both contributes to the theme as presented by the album title as well as making a nice tie-in and nod to the work Public Enemy has already done, even going so far as to remix Hell No (We Ain't Alright).
It's interesting to note that Public Enemy keeps soldiering on, taking chances like the Mistachuck disc and the Confrontation Camp bullshit or the Muse Sick 'N' Hour Message album, which was excellent musically, but too risky for their fanbase. Even though there is no Bomb Squad completely changing things and Terminator X seems MIA, Public Enemy has managed to stay relevant, even though they really have not released a great album since He Got Game, itself an adventure of sorts.
The beats and production here are ok and probably not the real point. The real point seems to be the lyrics, which come out highly charged on Raw Shit, then moves into nap mode, almost. Some of the material is amusing, such as letting Flavor Flav have a song, They Call Me Flavor, about the only bit of levity here and Coinsequences, which attempts, among other things, to rationalize and explain away Flavor's tv show. One of the hallmarks of some of Public Enemy's prior work was that there was so much going on that it was easy to listen over and over since there was far too much to absorb the first dozen times or more. That is not the case here, which hurts the album somewhat. This album is more of an "if you've heard it, then you've heard it" type disc, good but not able to bear repetition well.
The artwork is somewhat more interesting, starting with Paris, Chuck, Flav and a pair of Cadillacs with the White House in the backdrop. The back cover of the booklet shows the same front picture, with the White House on fire in the background. Inside is a translation of the candidates for both parties of 2004, along with George Bush complete with a cowboy hat and forked serpent tongue and John Kerry sporting bloodstreams alongside his face, perhaps as he just got done feeding. On the next page is the grille of a Hummer, a political slogan and a gas station pump nozzle, held like a handgun and dripping blood. Heady stuff, but the rest of the booklet is taken by Chuck, Flavor and Paris' message and thank you lists.
The 411: Neither a Paris not a Public Enemy record, it manages to combine both the best and worst of each party. The effect is one of being lackluster a bit too often. Public Enemy continues to push themselves and their audience (one of the ways is low-cost albums I picked this up for $9.99) and like all experiments, sometimes it works (Plastic Nation) and sometimes it doesn't as well (Make It Hardcore). Still, there will be nothing quite like this coming out in 2006 and this album should go over well with both Public Enemy and Paris fans, as well as people new to either.
Final Score: 7.0