The sleeve of this previously Internet-only album features a pastiche of the ‘Yo! Bum Rush The Show!’ album cover, featuring a black child surrounded by white children in gas masks. Dare we suggest this is an inadvertent reflection of a group on the verge of self-parody?
Perish the thought. No, it’s probably more the idea of a new debut album on a new label, oh and the indisputable fact that the Judaeo-Christian military-political complex/conspiracy is now attempting to poison the black race.
Or something like that. Trouble is, what exactly [a]Public Enemy[/a] are trying to say these days is getting increasingly difficult to decipher. “The US dollar’s not worth what it’s printed on/That’s why Pentagon sounds like Grabalon (sic), so like Babylon”. Er, right, Chuck. Shall we go and have a sit down now?
His style is suddenly, inexplicably echoing [a]Busta Rhymes[/a], but his voice seems thinner, lacking the old authority, growling and hamming it up like he’s trying too hard to recapture past glories.
You could never accuse [a]Chuck D[/a] of having nothing to say, and his raps are as browbeatingly intense as ever on the likes of ‘Crash‘, targeting the impending (obviously) financial apocalypse, ‘I‘ tackling the black self-image as the new underclass, or ‘Crayola‘ attacking “spray on hits” and “fake playa shit”. But his subject matter seems less relevant now, and his frequent diatribes against the state of the rap game and record company corruption reek of bitterness as much as righteous anger.
Chuck namechecks OJ, Biggie and Tupac within the first three minutes, while Flava promises, “I’ll bury all your Guns N’ Roses for breakfast”. Keep up, you chaps! That shit is history!
This would be a relatively minor quibble, if only these lyrics were delivered within some suitably vibrant, fire-breathing grooves. But most of the music here is dry, austere stuff, the bare bones of techno and soul echoing in the background, but rarely managing to colour the common or garden beats. Only ‘Crash‘ and ‘Do You Wanna Go Our Way???‘ are remotely memorable.
At times they try to inject some eclecticism into the mix, as Chuck seemingly attempts toasting on ‘World Tour Sessions‘, Flava goes Hispanic on ‘Last Mass Of The Caballeros‘ and old-skool party rapping on ‘What What‘. Finally, ‘Swindlers Lust‘ has a poetry epilogue. Alas, it sounds, at best, amusingly bizarre, at worst painfully ludicrous.
“I represent both East and West Coasts”, claims [a]Chuck D[/a] at one point. But he’s kidding himself. He represents an increasingly marginalised constituency gathered around his own increasingly paranoid and bitter worldview. And a not very good rap record.