August 23 2013: 19 years ago today Public Enemy released their fifth album Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age..For the most part the album did pretty well, but not as well sales wise as previous PE albums. Personally it was one my favorite joints and too me their most political. For the group it was a turning point as some prominent music critics unfairly bashed the group for not being ‘street enough‘ because they didn’t have a a gangsta sound and that they were too old..
At that time Warren G and the G Funk Era was in full swing and if you weren’t doing that you were rocking a pair tims and a hoodie and doing videos standing in a sewer to reflect how hardcore you were.
Younger heads who were just getting into Hip Hop were getting attached to artists like Nas, Hobo Junction, Organized Konfusion and Outkast who all dropped debut albums that year.
The music had moved away from political messages to one of making CREAM ala Wu-Tang who dropped their debut album the year before or being Gucci Down to your socks ala Biggie who dropped his debut album ‘Ready to Die‘ that year..
PE was caught in the middle but stuck to their guns and their message which I think has stood the test of time..
Below are 3 songs that stood out for me on that album..
Public Enemy So Watcha Gonna Do Now?..
Long before we even thought of Barack Obama or a Black president, PE does a song that depicts one . Its re-enactment of what befell President John F Kennedy in Dallas back in 1963 except in this song PE gives it a different twist at the end. The lyrics themselves speaks out about gangsterism..I wish they had shown the video more back when this track came out..
Public Enemy Ain’tNutting ButterSong
I love how Public Enemy took a traditional patriotic song and flipped it on its air with a Jimmy Hendrix type vibe. The lyrics are searing as they go in on the contractions of America, the flag and what she says she stands for vs what she actually does with people of darker hues.
Public Enemy Godd Complexx
I really appreciated this song when it came out and played it all the time.. They did a cover to the Last Poets controversial spoken word piece the White Man’s Got a God Complex. Here Flavor Flav does the duties and sticks to the words of the original song while riding a funky beat..
I figured I’d let folks peep the original joint from the Last Poets in case you never heard it before today..
Last Poets The White Man’s Got a God Complex
Def Jeff God Complex
As much as I like the God Complex song by PE, I gotta note they weren’t the first to flip the song.. A few years earlier LA based rapper Def Jeff who was on Delicious Vinyl reworked the song. Here he skillfully sampled the Last Poets while simultaneously riding over the beat to Gil Scott Heron‘s classic jam ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’.
This has got to be the most chilling song on the album as Chuck D talks about the horrific legacy of slavery and colonization where our our sisters, land and resources were routinely raped raped. Chuck wrote the following:
“It’s A Thin Line Between Law and Rape deals with the fact that the image of rape and crime has been thrust upon Black symbols here in America and throughout the world. America and the Western world have raped entire races of people of their name, God, religion, culture, and language, have raped continents of their resources and progeny, and have raped our women, which is the main reason Black people are so many different shades today. The laws of America allowed it, so I titled the song It’s A Thin Line Between Law and Rape.”
They employ reggae vocals of Colin Rochester who does a haunting hook at the end. He lived around the group In Roosevelt, Long Island. He appear edon Terminator X‘s solo album. Chuck noted that Colin was deported back to Jamaica shortly after the album was released.