After 26 years, 84 tours and over 2000 shows, Public Enemy are not only still alive, but continuing to electrify audiences the world over. Last month saw the groundbreaking hip-hop group embark on yet another UK tour, a tour that (thank God) saw them make an appearance at the beloved LCR.
This appearance had appeared in doubt as recently as the previous week, due to coverage in the press revealing that founding member Flavor Flav was to stand trial for two charges of assault. The fifty-four year old native New Yorker had been accused (in true hip-hop fashion) of threatening his girlfriend’s son with a butcher’s knife and only escaped a court appearance by virtue of a lack of court evidence. Rule of law successfully evaded, Flava Flav was free to hit the LCR with all his customary free wheeling enthusisam.
The truth is, if you haven’t heard of Public Enemy, then I implore you come out from under that proverbial rock of yours and take steps to re-join society. We’re all at it. They are part of the staple diet of music appreciation, a cornerstone of the iTunes library. The industry has given Public Enemy a few immortalising nods of approval by inducting them into all sorts of important sounding lists like ‘100 Greatest Artists of All Time’ and ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.’
This was a bucket list sort of night. Even you rock dwellers can appreciate the image of a fifty-four year old man, complete with the obligatory giant clock-necklace, throwing himself at force into a crowd of screaming people. The immense energy put into this performance spoke of a passion unrivalled by many of his younger peer artists, their grace, constant interaction and appreciation for the crowd is something which should be taken note of and underlined many times. Nobody noticed, or even cared when they slipped out time, or ran off for water breaks.
The legacy this group has created was exemplified by one episode in particular. Spotted in the crowd was a technician from the library helpdesk – a man we have all been rescued by at one point at another. He is a humble sort of man with a seemingly endless selection of graphic t-shirts. Potentially he has opinions on things like snooker and Carol Vorderman. This, our hero, has saved many a student from a disastrous mid blue-screen error. Imagine this figure, in a state of true hysteria, grappling with his can of John Smith, swearing and shouting ‘aaaaaiiiiiiit’ in feigned New York trill whenever Chuck D so asked.
Pointedly, the message here is a universal one, and underlines Public Enemy’s legacy not just as artists, but activists too. Every song strives for positive change; whether it be for peace or racial equality. With talent, versatility, and great humour, Public Enemy opened their genre up to the world, becoming the first hip-hop group to achieve international acclaim.
Musically they were pioneers, collaborating with artists of different genres, and tapping into new fan-bases. As Chuck D and Flav had the entire venue raising a middle finger to ‘racism, to segregation,’ and fists up for ‘peace, and unity’ one can’t help but wonder, when everyday more talentless swathes of TV contestants are propelled into international obscurity as holy sacrifice to vapid aspiration and ignorance, if music might again be used to actively change things, or to mean something.