11 November, 2012@10:03 am
In the midst of Disney buying Lucasfilm, we witness yet another corporate mega-merger; a scenario all to familiar to Public Enemy. A group that started on rap’s pioneering indie label, Def Jam, Chuck and Flav slowly watched one record company be eaten by the next, reaching this point, where they all have more or less melded into one huge corporate entity, controlling all forms of movies, music, and media. This kind of explains why hip-hop sucks in 2012.
The Evil Empire Of Everything, P.E.’s “b-side” album to Most Of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp, released earlier this year, touches upon this phenomenon in the most interesting way possible; from the perspective of someone that has weathered 25 years of a transforming art. Consider this, when P.E. stepped on the scene, they used rap music to help address problems in the community; now rap music is the problem. Hence, The Evil Empire of Everything.
While Chuck refers to this record as the sequel to Most Of My Heroes…, it’s not a collection of unused tracks from those sessions, and in fact outshines it’s predecessor in many spaces. Throwing back largely to the Fear of A Black Planet and Apocalypse ’91 sounds, clearly P.E. is back on track, and giving their fans exactly what they expect, even if it’s twenty-years after the fact. Longtime producer Gary G-Wiz once again produces a handful of tracks, with some of the album’s best moments. “Don’t Give Up The Fight”, an obvious homage to Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up”, as well as their own “Party For Your Right To Fight”, which is executed naturally thanks to Flav and Ziggy Marley’s shared hook. The same can be said for “Riotstarted” – an updated rendition of “Rightstarter” – now kicked up a notch with added flair from Tom Morello and Henry Rollins. These collaborations with like-minded individuals aren’t forced, and in fact are long overdue.
Tapping into the history of P.E. helps give a nostalgic feeling to The Evil Empire Of Everything, yet one with social relevance to today’s issues. “Beyond Treyvon”, for instance, is classic P.E., as Professor Griff bookends the track with Chuck D, and the new generation of emcees, NME Sun (literally the sons of Public Enemy) play the role of young, hoodie-wearing Treyvons. Later on “Icebreaker”, Chuck and company touch upon “border protection”, as True Mathematics dons the role of walkie-talking rapping Sgt. Hawkes, as heard on “Get The Fuck Outta Dodge”, many moons ago. Also notable here is the two part Davy DMX pair “1 Peace” and “2 Respect”, the latter which examines just what exactly happened to hip-hop music.
While the album does have a few tracks that don’t fit in with the rest, this is the most solid P.E. album in years. “…Everything”, for instance, pays homage to the sounds of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, as Chuck D laments he has it all, despite not having the requisite rapper checklist of material things. This track is thoughtful, and well done, but it’s softer tone has a strange place among the record’s noisier selections. The same can be said for the Flavor Flav club attempt, “31 Flavors”, but again, what P.E. album would be complete with out a solo offering from Flav, for better or for worse?
While this album comes off stronger than Most Of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp, the old adage of the double LP rings true: these two albums could have been a stronger release if paired down into one “disc”. Nevertheless, Public Enemy has not been this sharp in years, and in a time when the large conglomerates attempt to control what we consume, how we think, and what we listen to, P.E. is needed now more than ever. And we’ll put that on everything.
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