Having operated this site for several years with only rare mentions of the developing late-'80s genres of rap and hip-hop, I'm not even gonna try and pretend to be a connoisseur of the music of Public Enemy or any other similarly groundbreaking groups of its ilk. Nevertheless, in light of last week's announcement of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's inductees for 2013, it's certainly more than appropriate to spotlight one of the most revered pioneers of a style of music that has come to dominate a great deal of modern pop music listenership. Personally, despite my relative status as a Public Enemy neophyte, I'm delighted to see the continuing variety of the Rock Hall's selections from year to year. Some purists have certainly complained about recent inductees from Madonna to ABBA to Grandmaster Flash because those artists don't seem to reflect what they imagine to be the "genuine spirit" of rock and roll. I respectfully disagree with such attitudes and instead embrace the notion of inclusivity as long as the demand for high artistic quality remains ironclad. Opinions will always vary about polarizing bands like another of this year's inductees, Canadian arena rockers Rush, or one of the Hall's most high-profile ongoing snubs, theatrical hard rock band KISS. That's what makes things interesting. But in the case of Public Enemy, even I can confidently say there should really be no debate.
Listening even just once to "You're Gonna Get Yours" - the explosive lead-off track from Public Enemy's debut 1987 LP, Yo! Bum Rush the Show - reveals the undeniably powerhouse nature of the group's work. And this is far in advance of what are universally considered to be the band's undisputed masterpieces - its second and third studio albums. The song may ostensibly be about one of rock and roll's most classic subjects - cruising around in an envy-inducing vehicle and generally adopting a peacock-level display of bravado - but it ultimately goes far deeper than that even at this early stage of Public Enemy's legendary career. This is a hip-hop act that certainly helped pave the way for socially conscious rap music, but the fact of the matter is that it also happens to be one of the greatest from song to song and album to album. That's what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be all about. And so it is this year.
- Sample or download "You're Gonna Get Yours" here.
- Compare prices on Public Enemy CDs here.
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Album Cover Image Courtesy of Def Jam