Public Enemy
Public Enemy

Public Enemy Biography (BBC)

New York’s Public Enemy are one of the most lauded groups in the history of both hip hop and popular music in general. They were inspired by the social commentary of songs like 1982’s The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the hard street beats of Run-D.M.C. and lyrical dexterity of their contemporary Rakim, and revolutionised rap music almost single-handedly with their first four albums, released between 1987 and 1991.

Public Enemy presented themselves as more of a militia than a band when they came together in the mid-80s, comprised of members and partners of Spectrum City, a soundsystem set up by brothers Hank and Keith Shocklee. Chuck D had recorded with Spectrum City and became Public Enemy’s leader, insisting that his friend and dissident foil Flavour Flav, who he’d met in 1982, was part of the group when they signed to Def Jam in 1986. Also included in the wider PE organisation were ‘Minister of Information’ Professor Griff, DJ Terminator X and Security of the First World, or S1W, who performed with Public Enemy on tour as a kind of paramilitary-style guard.

Hank and Keith Shocklee became the nucleus of the Public Enemy’s production team, The Bomb Squad, whose dense, sample-heavy beats were as pioneering as Chuck D's firebrand lyrics and delivery. Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987) announced the group as a super-articulate, politically charged new promise for rap music, but it was their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (from 1988 and featuring a vocal introduction on the record from BBC DJ Dave Pearce) that made Public Enemy superstars, and spawned two enduring hit singles, Don't Believe the Hype and Bring the Noise.

Landmark 1989 single, Fight the Power, which Spike Lee had commissioned as the theme tune for his film Do the Right Thing, and their next two albums - Fear of a Black Planet (1990) and Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black were also huge successes, but the group were rocked by controversy in this period (particularly by anti-semitic remarks made by Professor Griff) and Flavour Flav’s addiction to drugs. They went on hiatus in 1993, but survived, both as a recording and touring entity. Tenth album How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? was released in 2007 to mark 20 years of Public Enemy and, in 2013, the final part of the BBC Four series Black Music Legends of the 1980s was given over to the group in an episode titled Public Enemy: Prophets of Rage. In the same year, they played Glastonbury for the first time.

Public Enemy Biography (Wikipedia)

Public Enemy is an American hip hop group consisting of Chuck D and DJ Lord. Formed in Long Island, New York, in 1985, they are famous for their music with a heavy political message alongside extreme criticism of the media of the United States, with many of their works also revolving around frustrations and concerns of the African American community.

Public Enemy's debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was released in 1987 to critical acclaim and their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988), was the first hip hop album to top The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll. Their next three albums, Fear of a Black Planet (1990), Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black (1991) and Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age (1994), were also well received by music critics. Public Enemy has gone through lineup changes over the years, with Chuck D being the only constant member of the group. Professor Griff left in 1989 but rejoined in 1998, though he parted ways with the group again some years later. DJ Lord also joined Public Enemy in 1998 as the replacement of the group's original DJ Terminator X. Flavor Flav, one of the co-founders of Public Enemy, was a member of the group for three-and-a-half decades, until he was fired in 2020. This turned out to be a publicity stunt that was called an April Fools' Day prank. Public Enemy minus Flavor Flav also tour and record music under the name of Public Enemy Radio which consists of the lineup of Chuck D, Jahi, DJ Lord and the S1Ws.

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Past BBC Events

Glastonbury: 2013
Worthy Farm, Pilton
Glastonbury: 2013

Glastonbury: 2013

Worthy Farm, Pilton

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