Would you believe that Public Enemy have been releasing music for 25 years now? I guess so, but that is quite an impressive time, especially as they still maintain that hardcore edge. Public Enemy released what co-founder Chuck D calls “two albums book-ending Summer 2012” earlier in the year. Together Most Of My Heroes Don’t Appear On No Stamp and The Evil Empire Of Everything represent the artistic and technological crossroads that Public Enemy yet again find themselves at. Digital distribution, a virtual recording studio and a lot on the band’s collective mind made dual albums not only a bold move, but a necessary one since their last album five years ago.
No longer confined to the traditional “one album every 18 months” industry standard, issuing albums in rapid succession should come as little surprise from one of the first acts to release music on MP3 in 1999, embrace the inevitability of Napster, start a blog before the word was even coined, utilize interactive recording (inviting fans worldwide to remix tracks virtually for their 2002 album, Revolverlution) and becoming the highest-profile band to join crowd funding site SellaBand.
“The album format is long gone as a market preference regardless of age”, Chuck D explains. “In my opinion, we have been in a predominately single song world since the first download”, noting that rap music in particular led the way when, “the emphasis had shifted from long recording to short and scattered” (in ringtones and mixtapes). Soon after Public Enemy announced the albums in January, both rapper E40 and Green Day revealed their plans to release multiple albums as well. “This is a chance to make a powerful artistic statement that reflects on the release method as much as the music within”, Chuck observed. “No charts, no counts, no pressure, just create, bomb and step back”.
The two albums were created in the same space and time, with Chuck referring to them as twins, not identical but fraternal. “They come from the same ParEnts”, he explains. “These projects will talk to each other in the language of PEace, PowEr, Love and resPEct”. The dual projects also launch Chuck D and Gary G-Wiz‘s digital distributor and aggregator of content through their new http://www.SPITdigital.com. As rap music’s first aggregator, Chuck D and Gary G-Wiz hope to inspire other independent artists to form and become their own record labels, distributing their music online through SPITdigital channels.
Most Of My Heroes STILL Don’t Appear on No Stamp and The Evil Empire Of Everything also update the Bomb Squad’s production concept that was first introduced to PE 25 years ago. “We are no longer 4-5 cats at a board in one studio in one city together creating new arrangements from world sounds”, Chuck explains. “These albums were spawned from the virtual studios of 14 production lab experts in sync from 8 different states in the USA”. The sum of these parts reflect the sonic adventure with special guided cohesion of Public Enemy’s legacy, outlook and direction. “People ask me constantly ‘Are you in the studio?'”, he continues. “With studio quality recording accessible in a simple iphone application, that question is about outdated as a typewriter. Today’s musician has the studio in themselves. In fact, today’s artist IS a studio. But a studio base is essential for this virtual undertaking to have a natural organic feel and effect”. The team assembled for the twin albums is formidable, with the second The Evil Empire of Everything featuring more collaborations than Public Enemy has worked with in some time, possibly ever.
Public Enemy continue to tour worldwide and year-round, and mark the 25th anniversary of their first single this year.
So that is what Chuck has to say about the two LPs which are available individually, but is there something else to add? Well not really, Chuck sums it all up perfectly. Public Enemy have always stood for something, and all these years later it is refreshing to see that they are still sticking to their goals. This is the usual Public Enemy sound, a wall of sound, guitars classic breaks all woven into a complex soundscape. Considering what Chuck said about how it was put together it is surprisingly cohesive, but then I guess if you said do Public Enemy by numbers you could probably guss what it should sound like.
Whilst the group may have wavered over the years I feel this is them up to par. Its not ground breaking, partly beacuse Public Enemy already did their ground breaking over a couple of decades ago. Regardless all the sign posts you would expect are right here – classic samples are re-blended to enginner that undeniable Public Enemy sound. Chuck D adds his deep tones to give the political edge, but perhaps not as edgy as it used to be.
This isn’t watered down, but its not moved on too much either. I loved Public Enemy’s first three LPs and then slightly lost track of them, but these two albums are just what is needed especially as the world economic crisis continues. Its mostly heavy, deep and relentlessly battering you round the head, but there is the frivilous Flavor Flav tracks which change up the vibe for a while.
The rap group have of course recently been in the limelight due to their UK Indie chart-topping single “Harder Than You Think” which also adorned the Paralympic coverage, so this would be a great time to follow on from that exposure, but I am not sure they are overly publicising this – guess they don’t have to.
Songs like Don’t Give Up The Fight, Beyond Trayvon and Icebreaker speak loudly and say plenty about today’s often turbulent times and similarly the song Everything speaks volumes on the world around us. This was a welcome relief. Pop it on and whack up the volume and once again feel like there is something that can be done about the world’s wrongs whilst opening your eyes to the political conspiracy that you may have become accustomed to.
Most Of My Heroes STILL Don’t Appear on NO Stamp Track List:
01. Run Till It’s Dark
02. Get Up Stand Up ft. Brother Ali
(interlude) Don’t Appear on NO Stamp Part I
03. Most Of My Heroes STILL… ft. Z-Trip
04. I Shall Not Be Moved
05. Get It In ft. Bumpy Knuckles
(interlude) Don’t Appear on NO Stamp Part II
07. Catch The Thrown ft. Large Professor & Cormega
08. RLTK ft. DMC
09. Truth Decay
(interlude) Don’t Appear on NO Stamp Part III
(interlude) Don’t Appear on NO Stamp Part IV
The Evil Empire Of Everything Track List:
01. The Evil Empire Of Everything
02. Don’t Give Up the Fight
03. 1 (PEace)
04. 2 ( resPEct) Spit Your Mind (Part I)
07. 31 Flavors Spit Your Mind (Part II)
09. Notice (Know This)
11. Fame Spit Your Mind (Part III)
12. Broke Diva
13. Say It Like It Really Is Spit Your Mind (Part IV)
* Review edited at the request of Wienerworld.