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Public Enemy In the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame


Word has come down that rap group Public Enemy will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the 2013 class. This isn’t the first rap group to get in, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys are already in. But Public Enemy is something special.

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I fell in love with rap music one evening in 1986. My family was out for a drive, I was in the back of the station wagon watching small town Nebraska and listing to the radio. In a serendipitous move the DJ took a break from the Mellencamp and Loverboy to give play to a new ‘novelty’ record from Run-DMC. It was ‘Walk This Way.” I was in love with it. It felt right, it was new, it was for me. I was then lucky enough to find the cassette ‘Raising Hell‘ with that song on it at the local Alco store and I was off and running.

There was an energy, a feeling that spoke (and still speaks) to me. I checked out lots of the late 80’s rap scene. De La Soul, LL Cool J and others were cool, but when I came across Public Enemy I knew it was a singluler phonemon.

First, let me be honest; I am a pink-skined, inside kid from the plains of Nebraska. I don’t come from money, but we had enough to get grocery and an Atari. An argument could be made that PE was not made for me. But, plenty of people who never will ride the range listen to County Music.

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The message was part of the larger theme. Rebellion. Some kids found Heavy Metal or Punk, I found Public Enemy. It is literate, anger and a young man is fertile ground for that sound to grow. The songs weren’t about love or sex or partying. They were about oppression, fighting for yourself and making your way in a world that is against you. And not in the Limp Biskit “I’m mad at my dad” style. PE had a hit single about problems with 911 response times in different parts of the city. Drugs, poverty and history were all subjects for lyrics.

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The other part of my PE fandom comes from their musical style. Starting with their second album “It Takes a Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” the group developed a style of building songs out of thousands of samples. This wasn’t the Puff Daddy style of sampling, taking of a familiar song to create a new song. PE’s production team, The Bomb Squad, would take a drum sound from here a base line from there and piece them together to create something new. They also would incorporate news clips, sound effects and noise into the creations.

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That production style coupled with Chuck D’s forceful, baritone rhyming made for a sound that annoyed parents and still gets my adrenaline flowing. As much as it makes me feel old to see the sounds of my youth getting inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, I am glad that, in this case, quality is rewarded.

Albums to check out: The core of the PE sound is on albums 2 , 3 and 4. 1988’s ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” 1990’s “Fear of a Black Planet” and 1991’s “Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black.”

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