Public Enemy

How To Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Sou

posted August 29, 2007 07:38:33 AM CDT | 26 comments

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*Forgive the "Sou" in the title, it reached the max characters* - Ed.

The year was 1988. South Africa was in ruin from the effects of apartheid. Thanks to government-sponsored drug mules, crack had infiltrated the poorest 'hoods, destroying all semblance of beauty like a flesh-eating virus. And instead of being a voice of the distressed urban youth, Hip Hop music was becoming its antithesis: a dance-happy, gaudy genre of bragging writes.

Leave it to Public Enemy to do something. With their seminal sophomore opus, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, they righteously put the rap world on its ass with a myriad of powerful messages, conspiracy-ridden angst and political anthems, all backed by The Bomb Squad's blasting boom-bap. Suddenly, having the flashiest four-fingered ring wasn't exactly a top priority, as front man Chuck D's forceful tenor injected a much-needed breath of activism into Hip Hop's collective lungs.

For twenty years, the Long Island collective have continued to enlighten the masses, influencing countless artists from all genres of music, leaving an impact as dense as Pete Rock's triumphant horns from their instant vintage remix to "Shut 'Em Down." Now, after court jester Flavor Flav's recent resurgence through the "miracle" of reality television, Public Enemy returns with their tenth album, How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?

Obviously eschewing today's Screamfest crowd for their (now) old school, loyal fans, Mista Chuck still remains as powerful as ever. On the album's lead single "Harder Than You Think," Flav plays his trademark side role to perfection, re-hashing his lines from "Public Enemy Number One," while Chuck laments on today's oxymoronic values: "Screamin' 'gangsta' twenty years later/of course endorse while consciousness faded/new generations believe in them fables/gangsta boogie on two turntables". "Sex, Drugs And Violence" is a brilliant combination of deejay scratches, children's chorus and a hard-hitting verse from the reenergized Blastmaster, KRS-One.

Throughout the 19-song long player, Chuck D touches on a variety of topics. Whether it is the atypically insistent history lesson ("All Along The Watchtower"), the loss of Hip Hop's heaviest hitters (the aforementioned "Sex, Drugs And Violence") or even his favorite non-rap albums ("Long And Whining Road"), Chuck's voice is an instrument unto itself, relenting enough to carry the beats, but calm enough so that it does not overpower them.

Despite the notable absence of The Bomb Squad's chaotic-yet-commanding soundscapes, PE elects to use the talents of Gary G-Wiz and Amani K. Smith's live instrumentation, giving the album an amalgamation of sloppy space-age funk, head-banging rock and dark, dusty poetry in motion. While for the most part the results are spectacular, the only misstep is Flavor Flav's "solo," "Flavor Man." But this stumble is easily forgiven, as he gives a thought-provoking story on his bus trip to Riker's Island on "Eve Of Destruction."

How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? is yet another in a long line of great albums from Public Enemy. And while they will probably never be able to influence the masses as they did in their heyday, the fans that have stuck with them throughout will not be disappointed.

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