Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

Show #44: Fight the Power

January 16th, 2006

In keeping with today’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I present this week’s show which features Public Enemy. I readily admit that I am not a big fan of rap and hip-hop but PE is a notable exception in my musical diet. Anyone who has poked around this site can tell that I am a big fan of the dreaded progressive rock and so it’s odd that I like PE. I’m not sure why, but there’s just something about their beats, noise collages, and lyrics which appeals to me, one of the whitest of the white folks on the planet.

A good bio of the group is up at Tiscali Music:

Revolutionary, politicised, focused and confrontational, no one scared white middle class America quite like Public Enemy. Tagged as “the black Sex Pistols”, Public Enemy rewrote the rules of hip-hop, extending their influence beyond rap. They were far removed from the slick disco meets block party grooves of forerunners Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash. They built on Run DMC’s street-oriented rhymes with jackhammer beats, samples, piercing sirens and Chuck D’s in-yer-face, black power rhetoric that addressed social change. And along the way they even made the Benny Hill beret cool again!

The group originated at Adelphi University in Long Island where Chuck D (born Carlton Ridenhour on August 1, 1960) was studying graphic design. He had also been DJ-ing at a student radio station WBAU, run by Bill Sephney, making mix tapes with Hank Shocklee (who would become Public Enemy’s co-producer). Together the pair put together hard hitting noise collages. One song called Public Enemy No.1 was heard by Def Jam co-founder and producer Rick Rubin who immediately tried to sign Chuck to his fledgling label. Chuck D was initially reluctant until he had formulated a blueprint for his outfit. After the inimitable Flavour Flav (real name William Drayton) had joined, Chuck started forming the concept of the group. Chuck also recruited Professor Griff (Richard Griffin) as ‘Minister Of Information’ and DJ Terminator X (Norman Rodgers).

While I imagine that there are many people who could give you a sociological lesson on how PE represent this or that about race relations in America today or about how their music and image of a group of young black men with Uzis represent the fact that we’ve got a long way to go to fulfill MLK’s dream of racial equality, I’m not one of them. Instead I’ll just let the music speak for itself.

 Show #44: Fight the Power

This show was recorded in Winterthur, Switzerland (of all places) on 9 April 1992.


Lost At Birth
Night Of Living Baseheads
Bring The Noise/Welcome To The Terrordome
By The Time I Get To Arizona
Fight The Power
More News at 11
Letter To The New York Post/Don’t Wanna Be Called Yo Nigga
Rebel Without A Pause/Public Enemy #1/Don’t Believe The Hype
Shut’em Down
911 Is a Joke
Can’t Truss It

 Show #44: Fight the Power

(Images from here.)

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Public Enemy

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