State Of The Union

On Friday night Public Enemy returned with a new single, State Of The Union, Flavor Flav and Chuck D at the forefront with DJ Premier at the decks.

There’s no nuance or subtlety about this song, it is direct and furious and confrontational. It is a message aimed directly at Donald Trump and the USA’s white supremacists. The chorus leaves no room for doubt ‘State of the union/ Shut the fuck up/ Sorry ass motherfucker/ Stay away from me’.

In a brief message to go with the song Public Enemy said this…

‘All we know is Trump has gotta go…. We shot this video in secret in the dead of the night. PEace Chuck D and Flavor Flav’

Chuck D at sixty still raging with the energy of a man forty years his junior.

Back in 2007 Public Enemy proved they were still alive and kicking with the Shirley Bassey horn sampling Harder than You Think. The song had a UK resurgence in 2010 when it was used as the music for Channel 4’s TV coverage of the London Paralympics. It still sounds magnificent today.

Harder Than You Think

In 1990 Public Enemy released their third album, Fear Of  A Black Planet, a dense, sample heavy, layered album with hard, funky loops underpinning the rhymes. Among the lyrics were calls to organise and become self sufficient, samples dealing with the treatment of black men by white police forces and media coverage of race issues, songs about the stereotypical portrayal of black people in Hollywood films and the inadequacy of the emergency services. Public Enemy made Fear Of A Black Planet thirty years ago. State of The Union is partly asking the question ‘what has really changed?’ and the answer is nothing, in fact, things under Trump are worse.

Revolutionary Generation

Now What You Hear Is Not A Test

In 1991 CJ Mackintosh remixed Gang Starr’s Take A Rest, starting with the ‘Now what you hear is not a test’ sample and then housifying it from there. This didn’t go down too well with the goosedown jacket fraternity but hip-house had its place and I still like this remix, even if it is a tad dated. Guru and DJ Premier made their music sound so effortless.

It’s A Long Way To Go When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

It’s funny- having not listened to any hip-hop for years, not deliberately anyway, I’ve been undergoing a bit of a phase. Some select tracks have found their way onto the portable mp3 player that makes my commute more fun. Gang Starr have two songs on it at the moment but having listened to them this week they could end up with a lot more. I loved at least three of their albums back in the day- Step In The Arena, Daily Operation and Hard To Earn. Gang Starr often managed a perfect blend of Guru’s easy flowing lyrics and DJ Premier’s beats and sounds, a stripped back, minimal, economic sound. This one is a really good example…

And from Hard To Earn…

A Long Way To Go

The Edwin La Dell lithograph up top, Woburn Urns, is about as un-hip hop as it gets. Juxtapositions- I shit ’em (as Reg Presley never said).