Label: Def Jam, Columbia

There used to be a time, when a rap fan saw the Def Jam logo on anything, including some new group you never heard of, you simply bought the joint because you knew the label never released any junk. Even if it was some go-go banging kids from Washington DC, an R&B diva named Alyson Williams or an uptown soul singer (and former jewel thief) named Oran Juice Jones, one could be sure that the product was fresh. Of course, what Def Jam specialized in was hip-hop that didn't stop, gaining themselves invaluable street cred with a roster that included T La Rock, Slick Rick, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys.

Public Enemy was signed at the insistence of Rick Rubin, who was as attracted to main rapper Chuck D's voice as much he was to the noisy layered sound collage of production crew The Bomb Squad—hell, even their name was cool. Chuck was also down with the Squad, calling himself Carl Ryder, which included Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee, and Eric Sadler.

Other producers simply made beats, the Bomb Squad assembled musical assaults. Like a visionary heist mob, each man played his position in the studio, with one dude crate diggin' while another programmed the 808, and the outcome was some of most diverse sampled/looped music created during the latter years of the '80s. Although the forthcoming Nation of Millions would be considered the Bomb boy's masterpiece, their debut was nothing to sleep on. If we was talking about R&B, then Yo! would be Public Enemy's Off the Wall while Nation was their Thriller.

Although they would later be known as the Prophets of Rage, rapping smartly about racism and social issues, vocalizing an intellectual worldview that shamed other no-nothing rappers, in the beginning, as heard on "You're Gonna Get Yours," brother Chuck big-upped his ride as much as the next rapper. Except, he wasn't talking about some tricked-out Caddie or Beemer, but instead he had nothing but love for his '98 Oldsmobile. "Get wit it, the ultimate homeboy car," Flav screams in the background as the engine roars and the tires screech.

Employing the rock guitar chops of black metalist Vernon Reid on "Sophisticated Bitch," in which Chuck pops junk to some gold digger who thinks she's all that, he was really at his best when talking about politics or himself. Indeed, while PE would later take on loftier subjects, the self-serving "Public Enemy No. 1," with that ill buzzing sound shrieking throughout the beat, was one of the best boast ("...you can rock the kid, so go cut the cheese...") since Ali stung like a bee.

Although not as militant as they would later become, Yo! Bum Rush the Show still sounds fresh 22 years after its release. With their debut, Public Enemy brought the noise. —Michael Gonzales