Chuck D: 1987-1991
Solo Albums: n/a
Group Albums: Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987), It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988), Fear of a Black Planet (1990), Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Back (1991)
Biggest Hits: "Bring the Noise" (1988), "Don't Believe the Hype" (1988), "Fight the Power" (1989), "Welcome to the Terrordome" (1989), "911 Is a Joke" (1990)
All due respect to the Ramones, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Andy Warhol, Honey Boo Boo Child, and anything else you think might be subversive, Public Enemy, in its prime, was the most punk rock thing in the history of mankind. In an era when mainstream America saw rap as a threat instead of a marketing opp, PE was the thing it feared most (even more than N.W.A.). Were Chuck D and company to emerge today, Fox News would go seriously fair and unhinged.
Chuck D was the face of it all. When he rapped about "the FBI tapping my telephones" it had an aura of menace and import that's wholly missing from hip-hop today. The "Fight the Power" video vs. the "New Slaves" rollout? Fear of a Black Planet vs. Nothing Was the Same? Please.
What's lost in the politics is the fact that Chuck D could rap his ass off and that his group was one of the tightest acts in showbiz history. Flow? Try the (regretably anti-semetic) first verse of "Welcome to the Terrordome." Hook? "You're Gonna Get Yours" from Yo! Bum Rush the Show. Storytelling? "Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos." Urgency? "Night of the Living Baseheads." On some level, rap is about being the all-consuming topic of conversation RIGHT NOW. Chuck had that crown longer than most. — Jack Erwin