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THIS PROGRAMME CONTAINS VERY STRONG LANGUAGE
# This time around
# The revolution will not be televised
# Step... #
They were the biggest rap group on the planet
and the most controversial.
They sold millions of records preaching pro-black politics
in a predominantly white country.
All done through an unrelenting wall of noise
that changed the sound of hip-hop.
"Yo, I got something new... Public Enemy."
And I was like what the...hell... who the...what the hell is... who's this?!
Oh my God. This is totally new sound.
They just played by no rules.
The self-proclaimed Prophets of Rage who opened the eyes of a generation to the black struggle.
If you think that the noise is the music,
the lyrics are even going to be noisier than the music.
No-one was teaching me about black politics in school.
Com'ere, listen to this.
As a human being, you're like, "That makes sense.
"I've never thought about it like that before."
Their militant attitude upset Middle America,
the media and the government.
When I watched the video the first time I kind of felt queasy inside,
I thought, "My heavens, who would ever want to put something like this together?"
There's a lot of people that don't ever want to hear a peep from the black man.
The plan was to have us self-destruct.
Friendships were stretched to breaking point.
Could they hold it together long enough to get their message across?
I go, "What you going to do, man, seriously, cos I'm fed up to here."
If I would've shot that man in his head
I would not be sitting here talking to you guys today.
# The point's made You consider it done
# By the prophets of rage
# Power of the people say
# 'You're quite hostile.' #
Hip-hop was in its early phase,
rising up from the ghettos of New York.
The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.
The perfect environment to breed rap's most political group.
But that wasn't where the Public Enemy story started.
It began on the more affluent streets
of New York's Long Island.
There was a sort of a point of migration for African Americans
who were working class
or working to middle class, had kids,
looking for, you know,
a backyard and a safe place to raise their kids from
the urban landscape that was Manhattan and Brooklyn and Queens.
Out of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement
many African American middle-class neighbourhoods were created
but what happened was
estate agents knew full well
that White America didn't want to live next to black people
so they'd create middle-class African American neighbourhoods,
so even though it was middle class - everyone's black still.
We did have grass as opposed to growing up playing on the concrete
like our cousins in the Bronx and Brooklyn and Manhattan.
So fresher air, but nonetheless,
racism was still there, we still had to deal with it.
The Public Enemy members grew up within
a few square miles of each other, in the small town of Roosevelt.
While hip-hop was developing on the hard streets of New York,
these future political firebrands were at their local university.
Brothers Keith and Hank Shocklee ran their own sound system, Spectrum City.
They made their name DJing at neighbourhood parties and community centres.
When rap was in its early stages there used to be a thing where
if somebody played what is known as a hip-hop beat,
or traditional hip-hop record,
all the MCs would line up and they'd want to grab the microphone.
# Breaks on the bus Breaks on the car
# Breaks to make you a superstar... #
And at that time you would have literally 20 or 30 guys
wanting to get their turn so they could show their skills.
Most of the guys that were rapping were horrible.
Young graphic design student Carlton Ridenhour,
who called himself Chuckie D,
was one of the Spectrum City fans in the crowd.
I kind of wanted to get my dance on
and whenever a whack MC got on the microphone
to MC the crowd,
they'd usually just mess it up for the crowd and the dance.
So what I would do is get on the microphone
to get them intimidated not to get on it.
He sounded clearer, more succinct,
he sounded better than the any of the 30 rappers that was there.
And he had some wit and some intelligence to him.
So I said, you know what,
I needed an MC for my situation to take it to another level.
And I was like, you know I'm not trying to be in the middle of that mix
because I mean I just like to go to the gigs, I dig it.
He said, "No, try this with us."
And I tried it, after the first weekend I did a gig with Spectrum City
and from that point on it was a natural fit.
# Mind over matter - mouth in motion
# Can't defy cos I'll never be quiet
# Let's start this... #
Spectrum City had found their MC, and Chuck D, his calling.
He'd pattern his vocal styles after Marv Albert
a Jewish brother
who was one of the famous sportscasters in this country.
Part radio announcer...
part stadium announcer...
part Southern black preacher...
part, you know, sassy, brassy New Yorker.
The speaker, the public speaker,
He wasn't a preacher.
He was a leader.
When you heard Chuck speak
you felt like your father was talking to you.
And was telling you some real shit, you know.
If I could say I ever had a man crush on anyone, quote unquote, it was Chuck D.
You know, cos it was just like, man...who is this dude?
There's a Marvel comics character called Black Bolt -
I'm a big comic fan -
and Black Bolt can never speak
cos if he even opened his mouth
and uttered the slightest, tiny little sound
he could blow up a mountain with that
and that's what I always considered Chuck to be,
Chuck was Black Bolt.
With Chuck on the mic,
the Spectrum City sound system really took off, playing all over Long Island.
The group members discovered they had more things in common than just music.
They all grew up in the '60s and shared a passion for politics.
Most kids into hip-hop were several years younger.
You have a group of people who grew up,
their first ten years in the turbulent 1960s as kids.
So assassinations that took place in the '60s, they stuck.
I mean, I was in first/second grade,
the president just got shot five years prior.
Assassinations of Malcolm X when I was five,
Dr Martin Luther King when I was eight.
Then you had the destruction, COINTELPRO, J Edgar Hoover,
the Black Panther party.
So coming up in the '60s made us see a different world
than somebody who was maybe born in 1970 and then saw the '70s.
Within a few years, Spectrum City were the biggest DJ crew
on Long Island with their own show on university radio station WBAU.
They fast got a reputation for playing the hottest rap records.
Picking up the station's signal in Queens
established hip-hop artists like Run DMC started paying attention.
We went to be interviewed at WBAU.
I remember when we first walked in and there was a guy
sitting there eating chicken wings out a Styrofoam container
answering a telephone.
"Yo, G, whassup, G? Yo, whassup, y'all?!"
DMC had just tasted the vital ingredient that gives
Public Enemy its flavour.
He's always happy. He's always like, you know, excited.
# Yeahhhhh, boy! #
You know, just kind of chiming in like the little brother.
He was nuts. He was like he is now.
Personality walks. Personality talks. Personality smiles.
Yo, did you see that? Did you see that?!
This is the words of Flavor, Flavor fucking Flav.
That excitement is infectious, it's contagious.
Throw your hands in the air!
Flavor is a dude who presents disorder...
What are you looking at? How are you feeling in there?
..and dissonance, spontaneity, the gift of gab, and anything goes.
Everybody thinks I'm cuckoo.
With hip-hop still in its early days,
there weren't enough new records to fill up a whole radio show.
So with Flavor Flav now part of the crew, Spectrum City
experimented with their own music to play on the airwaves.
Their early demos were an instant hit with the listeners.
And it was from one of these they would take their new name...Public Enemy.
We would always go up to BAU to hang out
cos it was just a beautiful scene
but then I remember when we went up there
this was probably like the 25th time,
and you know, they was playing records and then they played
Public Enemy Number One.
SINGS THE INTRO TO THE SONG
# Yo Chuck bust a move man
# I was on my way up here to the studio
# You know what I'm saying
# And this brother stop me and asks me
# "Yo wassup with that brother Chuckie D, he swear he nice"
HE IMITATES SONG
And he said...
# I'm all in Put it up on the board
# Another rapper shot down from the mouth that roared. #
# One, two, three Down for the count
# The result of my lyrics Oh, yes, no doubt
# Cold rock rap - 49-er supreme
# Is what I choose and I use I never lose to a team... #
Me and Shane, we said this. We ran to Rick Rubin.
"Yo, you got to hear this.
"God has come down from heaven to rock the mic."
Rick Rubin, boss of soon-to-be- legendary record label Def Jam.
In the mid-80s, home to two of the biggest names in rap,
Run DMC and the Beastie Boys.
Always ahead of the game,
Rick was keen to sign Public Enemy as soon as possible.
But there was a problem.
Rick didn't want to sign Flavor.
And actually Chuck tells a funny story.
He had a hard time explaining exactly what function Flavor would perform
in the context of the band.
-didn't want Flavor in the group at the beginning.
Here we are trying to create The Clash with hip hop beats
and we want to be just as important
and on the cover of Melody Maker
and NME and all these...
Nobody wanted Flav. But they wanted me.
And I said, "If you're going to get me, you've got to take our posse."
Chuck D forced Flavor Flav down Def Jam's throat.
# Uh-oh, Chuck They out to get us, man
# Yo, we got to dust these boys off... #
Chuck and the group signed to Def Jam in 1986,
quickly recording their debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show.
But due to the label's release schedule,
the record didn't hit the stores until the following year.
Hip-hop was moving so fast,
rapping and production techniques were changing all the time.
When the album finally came out, it was already sounding outdated.
To make matters worse,
Eric B and Rakim blew everybody away with a slick new style.
MUSIC: "I Know You Got Soul" by Eric B And Rakim
Eric B And Rakim came out with their epic single
Eric B Is President and I Know You Got Soul
and that record, that was a game-changer.
# Experiment like a scientist
# You want to rhyme? You gotta sign my list
# Cos I'm a manifest And bless the mic I hold
# You want it next? Then you gotta have soul... #
It just changed the whole terrain of rap and how you're supposed to rap.
The style you're coming with. The musical style.
And I was like "Oh!"
All of a sudden, it wasn't about drum machines any more.
It was going to be about sampling some atomic funk.
Despite themselves, they were lost in admiration.
and they said, "This changes everything."
The understood that as soon as it came out,
everything they had cut was outmoded.
We were happy for hip hop
but mad that we were in the middle with an outdated record
that meant something else. But we said,
"We got to have a record that dominates the streets."
They could've put their heads down or given up.
They didn't do any of that. They went back to the studio
and started to make the best records of their career.
# Yes, the rhythm, the rebel
# Without a pause I'm lowering my level
# The hard rhymer Where you never been I'm in
# You want stylin'? #
Public Enemy had completely broken away
from traditional hip-hop production.
Gone were the conventional rhythm tracks,
replaced by a jarring wall of noise.
Rebel Without A Pause came out in the summer of 1987.
I will never forget it.
What caught me was the siren sound of that record.
# Radio - suckers never play me
# On the mix - don't just OK me now
# Now known and grown when they're clocking my zone it's known
# Snakin' and takin' everything that a brother owns
# Hard... #
The noise. There was no noise like that in music.
This was like noise with a character.
Like the teapot thing or whatever that thing was in the back.
HE MAKES WHINING SOUND
# From a rebel it's final On black vinyl
# Soul, rock and roll Comin' like a rhino
# Tables turn - suckers burn to learn
# They can't disable The power of my label... #
It was innovative, it was creative, it was experimental
but above all things it was loud.
That record ripped through the Bronx, ripped through Brooklyn,
ripped through upper Manhattan,
ripped through Queens.
We said, "Look, if we die tomorrow
"this record here is our signature, this is it,
"no looking back." That was a relief.
# Yeah, boyee!
# Bass - how low can you go?
# Death row? What a brother don't... #
Rebel Without A Pause became the blueprint for the Public Enemy sound.
The group tried out their new material
on the 1987 Def Jam European Tour.
The first gig was London, England.
It was like a spaceship landing. One minute they were making records.
We heard the first single, second single...
Next minute they were at Hammersmith Odeon in the UK
and everybody from the UK scene were there.
It all kind of built this atmosphere
that something dangerous and exciting was going to happen
and this was going to be a big show.
-# Here we go again
-Turn it up
# Bring the noise
-# Turn it up
-# This is how we do black, man
-Bring the noise
# They know they can get a smack for that. #
We were fortunate to come out to face the hype in the UK
with an intensity that matched the hype
and songs that were our artillery to match the hype.
# In this corner with the 98
# Subject of suckers, object of hate
# Who's the one some think is great?
-# I'm that one.
-Son of a gun...
Public Enemy tore the roof off the Hammersmith Odeon.
Buzzing from their European success,
they returned to their Long Island studio, 510 Franklin Street,
to work on their new sound.
And responsible for that was their production team, the Bomb Squad.
As well as Chuck,
the Bomb Squad consisted of multi-instrumentalist Eric Sadler
and the brothers Keith and Hank Shocklee.
I started collecting records since I was five.
At the time I was 25 or 26,
I had amassed an incredible amount of records.
Doing Public Enemy and creating the album
it was more of an experiment just to see
whether or not I can take snatches of recorded music
and use it in a recording,
creating almost an orchestra or a band
with all the samples.
Add some flavour to this, man.
# Here we go, y'all
# Little by little do you know?
# We got the power and knowledge to move them
# And still rock a super song for the cause... #
The Bomb Squad's groundbreaking production centred on the sampler,
an electronic device that allowed the user to record any sound,
manipulate it, then play it back.
Keith, Hank and Eric filled their individual samplers
with clips of old funk records, spending hours
combining the different sounds into one new groove.
Up to that point when producers were...
making rap records
they would have two or three samples in a song.
Public Enemy would have 12 or 15 samples in a song.
They would stack drum breaks on top of each other
to make this entirely different clatter noise.
You had no idea what record this came from.
It became this brand new creation made out of found objects.
# Your bad self
# Help us break this down from off the shelf
# Here's a music serving you So use it
# Papa got a brand new funk... #
Just reconfiguring and taking sounds and bits
and placing there here and there to create a completely new composition.
It was almost like you sat down and analysed every single track they had.
Where did they get that sample from? How did they make that sound?
how's that DJ doing that? It was just different.
Hank Shocklee - to me he's like the Phil Spector of hip-hop
because of his daringness to do something
that's absolutely nuts at times and experiment and go for it.
They broke every rule possible, you know.
If a sample wasn't gritty enough,
Hank would through the record to the ground and rub it on the floor.
Completing Public Enemy's sonic arsenal
was the innovative scratching of Norman Rogers, AKA DJ Terminator X,
the only member of the band who spoke with his hands.
At the count of three, I want you to tell me the name of my DJ.
One, two, three.
AUDIENCE: Terminator X!
Terminator X, first and foremost, to me,
was an ominous character. He was really tall. Wide guy.
You could never see his eyes cos he always had them glasses on
so you never could tell what state of mind he was in.
With the X, the logo, the glasses and all that,
it added to the whole dominance of being a DJ back there
and busting out those sounds, man.
Terminator X brought to the group a style that no other DJs had.
Everybody throw your hands in the air!
Terminator X! Come on, y'all! Come on y'all,
You too! Terminator X.
But of course, the music of Public Enemy is only half the story.
Their political fire is what drives their songs.
And back in Ronald Reagan's America
there was plenty to protest about if you were young and black.
After years of civil rights gains in this country, going back to the '50s and 1960s,
we saw this roll back of things happening around, er,
voter registration, turn back of some of the civil rights policies,
even lunch programmes were being cut during the 1980s Reagan era.
'It was the crack era.
'It was the explosion of crack cocaine on urban streets in America.'
Something I had never seen before.
'I remember being in New York and it was like a new drug and it just took hold massively'
and there was a theory that it was kind of being
allowed to happen to keep the black population down in a way,
let them fight amongst themselves, bring themselves down
and you had in Harlem for instance, this amazing real estate,
which was deliberately being allowed to be run down, not be fixed.
Kick them out, get the developers in.
There was a lot of nasty things going on.
African-Americans seemed resigned to their situation.
The political activism of the civil rights movement was a distant memory.
We're 20 years past both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King
and even though there were politicians and figures
who made attempts to fill the shoes of those folks who came before,
for our generation, we just didn't see anyone filling that role.
So the music has sort of filled the vacuum.
'One day Hank and I was hanging a flyer with Malcolm X on the cover
'of the flyer of the gig we were presenting,'
and this kid comes up and says, "Who's this Malcolm the 10th?"
And we looked at each other and said, "Something's got to be done about that!"
If this kid thinks Malcolm X is Malcolm the 10th,
over the last 20 years, we've seen a dissolving
of what has influenced us to be who we are.
# Power and equality and I'm out to get it
# I know some of you ain't with it
# This party started right in '66 with a pro-black radical mix
# Then at the hour of 12, some force cut the power and emerged from Hell
# It was your so-called government
-# that made this occur like the grafted devils they were.
What we've continually tried to do is spark the curiosity in people
to learn about themselves and also spark even, um,
a lot of kids even of other ethnic creeds or whatever to learn
the black man does have a culture and origin that should be respected.
# J Edgar Hoover and he coulda' proved to...
# He had King and X set up
# Also the party with Newton, Cleaver and Seal, he ended
# So get up, time to get 'em back, you got it
# Get back on the track, you got it
# Word from the honourable Elijah Muhammad, know who you are to be black. #
Growing up as a white kid in the suburbs,
no one was teaching me about black politics in school. Certainly not.
You know, I would have no idea who Malcolm X was,
if it wasn't for Public Enemy records.
I mean, I've heard of Malcolm X
but I didn't know or wasn't that interested until a PE record,
because I figured if PE talk about him, this dude had to be about something, you know what I mean?
I went to Catholic school.
They wasn't teaching this. They was teaching me George Washington...
cut down the cherry tree,
Benjamin Franklin, but when Public Enemy started talking about historical figures,
occasions and instances, it was an education for a young brother.
# Fight the power. #
Throughout Public Enemy's career,
Chuck D said the things white America didn't want to hear.
Fight the Power is one of the clearest examples.
Chuck went for the jugular,
attacking the King of Rock 'n' Roll for stealing the black man's music.
# Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me, you see
# Straight up racist, that sucker was, simple and plain, (mother fuck him and John Wayne)
# Cos I'm black and I'm proud and already I'm hyped plus I'm amped
# Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps... #
Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me,
he was straight out racist.
Like that. That was unheard of,
people weren't doing that kind of name-dropping.
What Chuck was doing was saying,
you know, enough of these white heroes,
we want to celebrate some other heroes as well, you know?
It was shocking. It was shocking.
And when people talk about Chuck D being Malcolm X,
that was the kind of stuff that was Malcolm X-esque.
# I got a letter from the government the other day
# I opened and read it, it said they were suckers
# They wanted me for the Army or whatever
# Picture me givin' a damn, I said never. #
And for their second LP, Chuck's rabble-rousing rhymes
combined perfectly with the explosive Bomb Squad production
to create one of pop music's all-time classic albums.
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is the greatest
hip-hop album of all time.
They had a complete mastery
of the recording studio as an instrument
that no-one has ever topped.
# Nevertheless, they could not understand
# That I'm a black man and I can never be a veteran. #
The politics of the time helped drive and connect perfectly with the sound.
People say to me, what is it comparable to?
I say it's comparable the best work of Bob Dylan,
to Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue,
it's comparable to A Love Supreme by John Coltrane.
It's the Beatles' White Album.
# Listen, I see it on their faces
# First come, first served basis
# Standin' in line, checkin' the time
# Homeboys playin' the kerb, same ones that used to do herb. #
I was mesmerised by it.
I told everyone who wants to understand hip-hop,
no matter what area you're from, you've got to listen to Nation of Millions from top to bottom.
Because from there, you can see the strands that created NWA and Dr Dre,
that created Timbaland and Missy Elliott. You can see the strands
that created Kanye West and Eminem and all these other folks. It's all there.
# Succotash is a means for kids to make cash
# Selling drugs to the brother man instead of the other man
# Brothers and sisters! I'm talking 'bout... #
It Takes a Nation of Millions sold half a million copies
in its first month of release. And if you were going to drop pro-black politics
on a large audience in 1980s America, you needed some muscle backing you up.
Griff. Mr Martial Artist! HE CHUCKLES
Griff had this kinda dynamo vibe to him.
He was the big thing in the small package.
Brother in the red beret goes by the name of Professor Griff.
This other guy who was kind of so militant,
that even someone like Chuck was like, "You've got to calm down a bit."
You've got this little guy and four guys onstage,
doing karate movements, marching in unison.
They're called the Security of the First World. Why?
Because we believe that black people are first world people.
I first seen these two guys come out,
doing these choreographed military steps, with these fake Uzis...
that looked real, know what I'm saying? The crowd went crazy.
It wasn't an act, these guys were for real.
It's not like they hired a bunch of background dancers,
the S1Ws were really the S1Ws, and they were on the tourbus,
doing hundreds of push-ups every day. You didn't fuck with those guys.
I was at the Hollywood Palladium,
watching the Public Enemy show one time, and a guy jumped onstage.
And it looked like he wanted to do something to Flav, he was running towards Flav,
but he had ththis crazed look on his face and I saw Griff grab the guy
with one hand, turn a certain way, and in the third move, this guy was
locked up in a certain way and Griff was throwing him
back in the audieence, jumping down there with him with the S1s,
and they all escorted this guy out the place! Concert continues.
We never started trouble.
We don't boast to be badasses or anything like that.
It's like, if something comes my way in a situation,
fighting is a last resort. That's what we was taught.
If your back is against the wall and there's only one way out,
you have to do what you've gotta do.
The S1Ws were shocking, but what I liked about it was
the show of togetherness, the show of unity.
That's what the whole thing was, in my eyes,
these guys are prepared to defend what Chuck is saying.
It was like, "Yeah, I said it. And what? And what?"
That serious, no-nonsense kinda demeanour, it was very needed -
number one, to show young black men that we could be disciplined,
clean, respectful, articulate, not disrespecting women,
not spewing the madness, not doing all the things that I guess
the stereotypical image of black men, we don't have to do those things.
Professor Griff wasn't just the hired heavy.
A passionate believer in Black Power and the Nation of Islam,
he was made Public Enemy's Minister of Information. It was his role
to research political content for Chuck's lyrics and handle the press. He was also the tour manager.
That meant making sure the man with the clock around his neck was on time for gigs.
# It's going to be bedlam if we get 'em
# Trigger's cocked, nowhere to flock. #
Public Enemy had a kind of built-in instability.
You've got Flavor and Griff in the same band. It made no sense.
It's never made any sense.
The fact that they managed to do anything with these two guys,
these two polar opposite character types in the same band -
I've never smoked, never took a drink. I wasn't the party type.
Strait-laced, so to speak.
# It's going to be bedlam if we get 'em
# Trigger's cocked, nowhere to flock. #
Somehow I'm meeting this dude, Flav, who's Chuck's friend,
who's stealing cars, selling drugs, doing drugs, doing all this kind
of stuff, and now I have to partner up with this guy and manage THAT?
Yo, man! We was in this shop,
Terminator showed me these things, I said, "I'm going to get 'em," and I got 'em!
The dude never owned a set of luggage!
He had plastic bags with his clothes and deodorant and socks and underwear in.
Like, about 15 bags!
Like Griff, Chuck and the S1Ws didn't smoke, drink or do drugs.
By the time Nation of Millions hit the charts,
Flavor Flav was into all of them.
Tonight... tonight is the night Flav is going to fuck up,
because I'm fucked up, y'know what I'm saying?
I'm fucked up, y'know what I'm saying?
What kind of example are you
to young black men that we're trying to set an example for?!
You're doing everything opposite of what we're trying to do.
We're trying to save our people, but we've got to drag you out of the crack house!
Any time that I ever got with my group, I was always functionable.
I never was a dysfunctionable addict... a dysfunctional addict.
-Just come on, Rico!
-I didn't do nothin'!
You are doin' something, just as you speak.
You got those dark glasses on, you spillin' orange juice all on me.
-All over you!
-Hah, you wrong again!
'The only thing I say that drugs did to me'
was that it made me miss some of my shows.
There were shows where one of the S1s had to don Flavor's clothing,
put the glasses on, put the clock on.
So we tried to pull it off, dressing someone else up as Flavor.
Some guy in the front row went like this...
"That ain't Flavor!"
It blew the cover off of everything, man, we had to confess.
It was embarrassing, really embarrassing, man.
Lemme hear you say "HO!"
He may have driven Griff crazy,
but Flavor Flav was an essential part of Public Enemy.
I don't think Chuck would have ever gotten across without Flavor.
Because the message was such a strong message and powerful,
he kinda offset that with a humorous side.
-I wanna do my dance, can I do my dance?
-Do your dance, go ahead.
Terminator X, give him a beat! Let him do his goddamn dance.
BEATS AND SCRATCHING
He was always like the outcast of the outcasts.
Once you're the outcast of the outcasts,
then how do actually fit yourself into the world?
You really don't, you kinda have to spin around yourself.
That's Flavor Flav.
And I salute him and respect him for his free-minded self.
Although it has to be tapered when it comes down to a team.
The group was a real clash of characters, but somehow it worked. Record sales climbed
into their millions. They performed alongside established acts like LL Cool J,
Run DMC and Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince.
Their success gave them a platform to preach their politics
to a large audience of both blacks and whites.
-Everybody say, "Fuck the racists!"
-CROWD: Fuck the...
No, no, you gotta say it with some attitude. Say, "Fuck the racists!"
CROWD: Fuck the racists!
We brought racism by supremacy and we put it right in the face of
white people and said, "This is what we had to deal with all our lives.
"Here's a mirror, check this out." "Oh. OK, I understand."
So now the dialogue is started.
But their detractors countered it was Public Enemy who were racist,
inciting hatred rather than promoting equality.
I consider this motherfucker guilty. I'mma ask y'all, is he guilty?
'Somebody's going to come out and say I'm a separatist.'
It's absolutely crazy,
because what rap is doing is bringing everybody together.
That's why you hear the bad news about rap.
This only comes from a white supremist viewpoint.
They don't want to see blacks and whites mixed together.
Public Enemy, in their music, it's kinda rabble-rousing.
Some record stores and radio shows banned their music.
The group captured the mood on the track Incident At 66.6FM,
which sampled real-life listeners on a radio phone-in.
We've been getting some callers who're shocked by the things you're saying.
-It's on the air.
-I've seen these guys, I saw them warm up for the Beastie Boys last year.
-How were they?
I thought it was one of the most appalling things I've ever seen.
There were two gentlemen in cages either side of the stage with fake Uzis.
They were... Jesus, it was unbelievable.
What was pissing off parents
more than anything in suburbia in the late '80s was, you know, black music.
You may never have heard of some of these stars, but your kids have.
They're heroes to a whole new generation.
# Don't believe the hype, don't don't don't believe the hype. #
When little Johnny took the Public Enemy poster home and put it
up on his wall, you know Mr and Mrs White America got very angry.
In other words, like - "Johnny? Johnny?
"Who are these black guys you have on the wall here..."
HE LAUGHS "..Carrying guns and all this stuff,
"talking about Black Power?"
The problem was not just that they were educating black people about the racist power structure
in which they lived, it's that they were educating white people
that in many cases had been socialised into a racist structure, sometimes without even knowing it.
And this guy comes out from Long Island, says, "Hold on, have you thought about this?"
You're like, "That makes sense. Never thought about it like that before."
But all the attention
only made them more popular. Having conquered the charts, it was a natural progression
to move into the movies. Spike Lee was known for his thought-provoking films on black culture.
In 1989, he asked the group to write a song for his controversial new movie, Do The Right Thing.
Set in a blistering New York summer, it tackled racial tension in Brooklyn.
Chuck and the Bomb Squad wrote the song Fight The Power for the soundtrack.
Spike made it the film's recurring theme.
A lot of youth in the cities were facing simlar issues
and that's why it was so popular, because even if it was
a false sense of empowerment, it was still something that we had
to call our own and that could articulate how we felt.
# Fight the power, lemme hear you say fight the power
# We got to fight the power. #
He had this song, Fight The Power, has this driving beat,
sampling James Brown, you know.
And there's two scenes that stand out for me.
One is the opening scene, where you see Rosie Perez dancing very aggressively to it.
Then the second thing is Radio Rahim with his big radio -
cos that's what we carried back in the day,
I had one myself - and you'd put your cassette in there
and just play the songs over and over again.
And what was really deep is when the radio got destroyed near the end
of the film, cos it's almost like they were attempting to silence the community,
and the song represented the voice of the community.
Motherfucker! You nigger motherfucker!
Do The Right Thing was a box-office smash and was nominated for an Oscar.
In the late '80s, it seemed you couldn't escape Public Enemy.
The accompanying music video cemented their position as the Black Panthers of pop.
To the outsider, the group's rise to the top appeared flawless.
But on the inside, it was a different story.
Flavor's drug-taking affected his reliability.
Confrontations with ex-military man and tour manager Professor Griff were inevitable.
Tried to tell him to be on time, he had this thing about,
you know, being on "Flavor time" is what we called it.
Then he showed up late and Griff just kinda, like, snapped.
People were late, they didn't have their clothes ready,
so I'm saying, "Do you forget your purpose why we're here?
"The main purpose we're here is to do a show."
And for them to be late to their own gig - come on, that's tacky. That's not businesslike at all.
The story goes Griff attacked Flavor, and in Flav's recent autobiography,
he claims the assault left him with broken bones.
I didn't break that man's ribs like that.
I punched the radio and the clock.
Like, destroying those things,
thinking that maybe this will get through to him.
I had a feeling that he would probably be
surprised about what he read in my book, y'know what I'm saying?
Cos these are things that he didn't know was on my mind.
The only thing you can remember about me is I beat you up?!
You don't remember the fucking people that wanted to beat you up
and me and the S1Ws protecting you and coming to your aid
while you high and drunk?
Griff doesn't live inside my body
so he's not going to feel what I feel. He's on the other end of it.
Angry and upset, Flavor Flav claims he turned up to the studio with a loaded gun.
I was about to put his lights out.
And if I would have put his lights out, if I would have shot that man
in his head, I would not be sitting here talking to you guys today.
And I thank God for giving me the strength not to kill Griff.
Bad relations between Flav and Griff were a continuing problem.
But in 1989, things got a whole lot worse.
In May, the Washington Times sent journalist David Mills
to interview Professor Griff. A number of topics were discussed,
but when the article was published, all the attention focused on one sentence.
Griff reportedly told Mills,
"Jews are responsible for the majority of wickedness
"that goes on across the globe."
With the media scrutinising their every move, it was a PR disaster.
The resulting fallout threatened to end Public Enemy's career.
You're at the height of your success, everything has gone right.
That happens, then everything just...
I just know when I read about it I was like, "What? And he said that?
"And now...? The powers that... Now he has to lead a group...
"What happened?" I was very confused.
The Griff situation was...
Was... To me, I'm going to be straight,
was a selfish call at that time,
because whether that's his belief or whatever you want to believe,
I'm not going to get into that, it affected everybody else.
You know, I get associated with that.
I think that the thing that hurt us
once again was the fact that we're being seen as being haters.
When we were not the case at all.
And I think that the incident with the Jews was something that,
to me, was irresponsible.
The group was controversial enough, doing what Chuck was doing.
They had enough on their plate with Chuck speaking so directly out
against the racist, white power structure,
without them making irrational statements
that they couldn't even intellectually defend.
It wasn't the first time Griff had brought up
contentious issues in the press. The band often discussed ideas
about how to regain a consciousness for African-Americans,
and this often spilled over into the black community's relationship
with other ethnic groups. But this quote was indefensible.
Did he really say those words or were they taken out of context?
The way it was kind of put out there was definitely not my sentiment.
I never had this hatred for Jewish people,
never had this hatred for white people like they say.
Hell, you could take bits and pieces
of this conversation we're having right now and cut it up
and make it seem like I hate some damn body.
My temperament and my aggressive way I talk
and the passion that you see coming from me,
you understand what I'm saying?
Hell, we can do that all day long in the editing room.
I'd just finished reading The Secret Relationship Between Blacks And Jews,
which was given to me by somebody IN Public Enemy.
This conversation was going on all the time, about the control
and who owns these companies and why are this group of people
always doing this and controlling that and having this kind of influence.
That talk went on all the time, every day.
And that bit of information that I put in that particular interview
with David Mills was given to me by somebody in the group.
Why am I taking the heat for it?
Public Enemy's Jewish publicist,
Bill Adler, remembers things differently.
I had a conversation with him and it was really,
it was kind of surreal in a way.
Because he told me he got a lot of the ideas from a book
that had been published by the Nation of Islam
called The Secret Relationship Between Blacks And Jews,
and it's a big, thick book. And he started quoting Henry Ford,
the American industrialist, on the subject of Jews.
And I said, "Griff, you know, I grew up in Detroit.
"Henry Ford was a notorious racist,
"in addition to being an anti-Semite."
And I said, "He would have as readily and as happily
"upholstered the seats of his cars with your black hide
"as with my Jewish hide, just so you know."
He said, "Bill, I can't help it, it's in the book."
So at that point I understood that, you know,
he accepted these ideas as a matter of faith.
Whether Griff's words were reported correctly or not, the resulting media storm
required swift action from the band's leader, Chuck D.
I remember being around at that time,
you know, and how tough that decision was for Chuck.
It was difficult, difficult.
They were the biggest rap group and one of the biggest pop groups
in the world at that time. And you're told you've got to get rid of one of your best friends
out of the band because of his anti-Semitism.
That's a lot of weight.
He felt torn between his loyalty to his old friend,
Professor Griff, and his...
rejection of Griff's ideas.
Nobody wants to go around being called anti-Semitic
because I think it's a game that the press likes to also play,
because you have to find the reasons why each and every black person associated with Public Enemy
is anti-Semitic, and so it's something that they could play with
and make fun out of and just keep on building up
because they find it interesting to sell papers or TV programmes,
but as far as Public Enemy's concerned,
that's a ridiculous statement.
It was a total mess.
It was a mess with me not just getting into it
and handling it after it was said and done.
And I just let it go, I said, "You know what, boys will be boys,
"men will be men, it'll wash away."
It did not wash away.
Def Jam's publicist, Bill Adler, refused to work with the group
and criticism from the world's media continue to build.
Public Enemy's mission to change the consciousness of a generation
was about to be wrecked by one interview.
Chuck had to act to save his group.
He released a statement, apologised and sacked Griff.
Did I get thrown under the bus?
By organisations, by people in the group? Yeah, I did.
Did it have to happen that way? No.
How do you rebuild from that? There's inside problems,
there's this and that, and that was...
that was the key of everything just going sour.
Most bands would have buckled under the strain,
but Chuck responded to the Griff situation with typical style.
In their next album's stand-out track, Welcome to the Terrordome,
Chuck vented his anger, re-igniting the whole argument.
Public Enemy didn't come to mainstream attention
until recently, when one of the group made explicitly anti-semitic remarks.
There was a furore, the group apologised,
but then, in their latest rap, these words.
# Crucifixion ain't no fiction So called chosen frozen
# Apology made to whoever pleases Still they got me like Jesus. #
Released in 1990, Fear of a Black Planet continued the political rage
of their previous album.
I can't walk in the park just because I'm dark...
As well as preaching the teachings of black nationalists,
they also tackled many social issues that affected African-American communities,
like the treatment of blacks by the police in Anti-Nigger Machine...
..emergency call response times in 911 Is A Joke...
I dialled 911 a long time ago
Don't you see how late they reacting?
They only come when they wanna...
And the stereotyping of black people in the movies on the track Burn Hollywood Burn.
I'll check out a movie, but it'll take a black one to move me.
If Def Jam were worried about the Griff scandal's effect, they needn't have been.
Fear of a Black Planet was a top ten album on both sides of the Atlantic.
Public Enemy were more popular than ever.
The group went on tour with big-name artists like U2.
They even had a presence in Terminator 2.
Lead character John Connor wore their T-shirt throughout the movie.
# Turn it up! #
They further crossed over with their fourth hit album
in a row, Apocalypse 91: The Empire Strikes Black.
It featured a new version of Bring The Noise with thrash band Anthrax.
Rap Metal was born.
# The brothers and sisters across the country
# Has us up for the war
# They gonna have to wait #
Chuck still refused to rein in his political preaching.
The album also included a track which caused another media outcry.
In Arizona today, another march on the state capital.
Another call for a state holiday to honour Martin Luther King Jr.
People were asking for a holiday in the United States
for Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
It would be the first black person to have a holiday named after him,
and you had two states that said no, New Hampshire and Arizona.
I decide to get busy in writing a song about how I felt, and I just
thought it was a bunch of crap that this state would avoid the issue.
Basically, we move on the state of Arizona, on politicians,
on a fictional racist governor, who've got all these things going on.
At the end we kind of blow up the spot.
The video ends with the murder of three fictitious Arizona officials.
One is poisoned, another shot, and finally the governor is blown up.
They said the video was so controversial,
the nerve of rappers, taking on government officials.
MTV agreed and promptly banned the video.
When I watched the video the first time,
I felt queasy inside and thought,
"My heavens, who would ever want to put something like this together?"
That sends a clear message that the way to fight violence is with violence.
Is that what you were trying to do?
There's a lot of reaction from a lot of people, and I think
the purpose of rap music or any kind of music, I feel, is to raise dialogue.
It was clear Chuck had lost none of his political drive.
But as the '90s rolled on, the group lost their momentum.
Griff was long gone. The Bomb Squad were working on other projects.
Flavor's personal demons saw him regularly in jail.
And by the time Public Enemy's 5th album came out in 1994,
hip-hop was changing too.
I started noticing in '91-'92,
they're showing a lot more videos that are not the kind of
substantive stuff that Public Enemy and other groups were doing.
RAPS: Like this and like that and like this
The corporations seized it by the throats,
and threw it down the tubes.
Gangsta became marketable, it became contrived.
Now it's all about bitches and hoes, how much money you've got,
flossing, blinging, spinning rims.
The whole materialistic kind of vibe.
I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I definitely believe that
someone said, "Enough of this Public Enemy stuff.
"These guys have got to go."
Whatever form that means,
eventually they were off the radio.
# Baby got a problem sayin' bye-bye... #
I'd argue the representations in the '80s were progressive
compared to the average image I'm seeing of black people on TV today.
We don't even talk about it, we just accept it.
The only place you see black people is MTV, and what are they doing?
Shaking their backside telling you how much money they've got.
It would take film director Spike Lee to get Public Enemy back on form.
Writing the soundtrack to his 1998 film He Got Game,
the band turned in their strongest material in years.
# If man is the father, the son is the centre of the Earth
# In the middle of the Universe
# Then why is this verse coming six times rehearsed? #
After nearly eight years out of the group, He Got Game signalled the return of Professor Griff.
But it would be Public Enemy's last album for Def Jam Records.
Terminator X quit the following year, leaving the music industry behind
to run an ostrich farm in North Carolina.
Since then, Public Enemy have taken their career into their own hands.
They were one of the first bands to release an internet-only album in 1999.
From 2005 onwards they've put out records on their own label SLAMjamz.
Their latest material proves they've lost none of the fire
that fuelled the early days.
# We ain't just said just about anything just to get those out there. #
Perhaps the strangest development is Flavor Flav's recent career
as a star of reality TV.
It's called Flavor Of Love.
I've put 20 girls in my crib, and I dated them all,
trying to find the right one for your man.
Fans tuned in to Flavor Of Love in their millions,
the show boasted the highest viewing figures in VH1's history.
But it's a long way off the original message of Public Enemy.
I don't think in no shape, form or fashion, Flavor doing Flavor Of Love
tarnishes or puts a blemish on what PE records have done, cos it can't.
It's two completely different things.
You're not seeing the real Flavor Flav.
You're seeing the character he's playing to have a TV career,
and why the hell not?
I want a little party, you know?
'Let's be truthful, even on those reality shows,
'Flavor wasn't the fool.
'It was all those women around.
'He was just the bait to get them fools there.'
Why wouldn't a reality show be up Flavor's alley?
Flavor Flav was made to be seen.
He is seriously the symbol of reality TV,
whether I think reality TV is good or bad.
Do I dig everything he does? I don't dig everything anybody does.
I'm my own man.
I wasn't surprised by the reality shows,
but I was saddened by it, cos he's actually older than Chuck,
and to see him reduced to basically this pimp-like figure,
with all these women, given the history of Public Enemy...
..it was sad.
It was sad watching it, but I knew Flavor needed money.
I'm like, come on, Flavor! No, bro.
We didn't come all this way, do all we'd done,
to leave that kind of legacy.
Now young kids my daughter's age have to look through
the lens of VH1 to find out what Public Enemy was about.
And all they're seeing is you pimping on TV. Pimping, dude?
Come the fuck on, dude, is that how we're going to leave this legacy?
I never respond to the criticisms, ever.
I let people say what they say and I keep going.
You know what I'm saying? It's like bumper cars.
The shit bumps off of me, bounces off of me,
goes to somebody else, bounces off them, goes to somebody else.
I never care.
Know what I'm saying? Let me tell you something.
The only one that can judge me is God.
No other man can judge me,
so fuck what another man has to say about me.
# Rolling Stones of the rap game, not braggin'
# Lips bigger than Jagger, not saggin'
# Spell it backwards, I'ma leave it at that
# That ain't got nothing to do with rap. #
Today, Public Enemy are the Rolling Stones of the rap game.
Hip-hop ambassadors, touring the world playing their
extensive back catalogue with a full live band.
And despite all the controversy and all the arguments,
the original members remain friends and still perform together.
# Screamin' gangsta, 20 years later
# Of course endorsed while consciousness faded
# New generation's believin' them fables
# Gangsta boogie on two turntables. #
Getting close to 30 years as a group, and you can count on two hands
the amount of bands that last 30 years as a continuing, working band,
making records, touring the world at the level they're doing it at.
So the legacy is kind of untouchable.
# So it's time to leave you a preview
# So you too can review what we do
# If you don't stand for something you fall for anything
# Harder than you think is a beautiful thing. #
I don't think we would've had a black president
if it hadn't been for groups like Public Enemy,
cos they kind of politicised a whole generation in America.
Did a generation of young whites vote for him
because they were brought up on hip-hop?
Did we have something to do with that? Of course we did.
The legend of Chuck D, Flav and Griff and Terminator will live forever.
They was the most influential hip-hop groups in the world, without question.
One of the greatest musical entities in history
is Public Enemy.
You don't believe me, go listen to the records.
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