Public Enemy is an American hip hop band consisting
of Chuck D; Flavor Flav; Professor Griff and his S1W group; DJ Lord;
Hype man Daniel Mcgowan, who replaced Terminator X in 1999; and bassist
Brian Hardgroove. Formed on Long Island, New York in 1982, Public
Enemy are known for their politically charged lyrics and criticism
of the American media, with an active interest in the frustrations
and concerns of the African American community.
In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Public Enemy number forty-four
on its list of the Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Acclaimed Music ranks them the 29th most recommended musical act
of all time and the highest hip-hop group. The group was inducted
into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
Developing his talents as an MC with Flavor Flav while delivering
furniture for his father's business, Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour)
and Spectrum City, as the group was called, released the record "Check
Out the Radio," backed by "Lies," a social commentary—both
of which would influence RUSH Productions' Run-D.M.C. and Beastie
Chuck D put out a tape to promote WBAU (the radio station where
he was working at the time) and to fend off a local MC who wanted
to battle him. He called the tape Public Enemy #1 because he felt
like he was being persecuted by people in the local scene. This was
the first reference to the notion of a public enemy in any of Chuck
D's songs. The single was created by Chuck D with a contribution
by Flavor Flav, though this was before the group Public Enemy was
Around 1986, Bill Stephney, the former Program Director at WBAU,
was approached by Sam Mulderrig and offered a position with the label.
Stephney accepted, and his first assignment was to help fledgling
producer Rick Rubin sign Chuck D, whose song "Public Enemy Number
One" Rubin had heard from Andre "Doctor Dré" Brown.
According to the book The History of Rap Music by Cookie Lommel, "Stephney
thought it was time to mesh the hard-hitting style of Run DMC with
politics that addressed black youth. Chuck recruited Spectrum City,
which included Hank Shocklee, his brother Keith Shocklee, and Eric "Vietnam" Sadler,
collectively known as the Bomb Squad, to be his production team and
added another Spectrum City partner, Professor Griff, to become the
group's Minister of Information. With the addition of Flavor Flav
and another local mobile DJ named Terminator X, the group Public
Enemy was born."
According to Chuck, The S1W, which stands for Security of the First
World, "represents that the black man can be just as intelligent
as he is strong. It stands for the fact that we're not third-world
people, we're first-world people; we're the original people [of the
Public Enemy started out as opening acts for the Beastie Boys during
the latter's Licensed to Ill popularity, and in 1987 released their
debut album Yo! Bum Rush The Show. Although critically acclaimed,
the album became Def Jam's worst-selling album at the time.[citation
However, over the next few years Public Enemy released It Takes
a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Fear of a Black Planet, and
Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black. In addition to ushering
in the golden age of hip hop, during this time, Public Enemy reached
the height of their popularity, adulation, and controversy. The group
then separated from Def Jam and has since been independently producing,
marketing, and publishing their music.
 Mainstream success (1987-1994)
Their debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was released in 1987 to
critical acclaim. The album was the group's first step toward stardom.
The group released the album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold
Us Back in 1988, which performed better in the charts than their
previous release, and included the hit single "Don't Believe
the Hype" in addition to "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos".
Nation of Millions... was voted Album of the Year by The Village
Voice Pazz and Jop Poll, the first hip hop album to be ranked number
one by predominantly rock critics in a major periodical. It is also
ranked the 17th best album of all time (and best album of the 1980s)
by Acclaimed Music.
In 1989, the group returned to the studio to record Fear of a Black
Planet, which continued their politically charged themes. The album
was supposed to be released in the fall of 1989, but was pushed
back to April 1990. The title song "Fear of a Black Planet" addresses
the fear some white people have of black and white relationships.
It was the most successful of any of their albums and, in 2005, was
selected for preservation in the Library of Congress. It included
the singles "Welcome To The Terrodome", "911 Is a
Joke", which criticized emergency response units for taking
longer to arrive at emergencies in the black community than those
in the white community, and "Fight the Power". "Fight
the Power" is regarded as one of the most popular and influential
songs in hip hop history. It was the theme song of Spike Lee's Do
The Right Thing. It was ranked the 80th best song of all time by
Acclaimed Music. The song voices disgust for considering Elvis
Presley and John Wayne standard American icons.
The group’s next release, Apocalypse '91...The Enemy Strikes
Black, continued this trend, with songs like "Can't Truss It",
which addressed the history of slavery and how the black community
can fight back against oppression; "I Don't Wanna be Called
Yo Nigga", a track addresses on how the urban culture uses the
word nigga outside of its usual derogatory context. The album also
included the controversial song and video "By the Time I Get
to Arizona," which chronicled the black community's frustration
that some US states did not recognize Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday
as a national holiday. The video featured members of Public Enemy
taking out their frustrations on politicians in the states not recognizing
In 1992, the group was one of the first rap acts to perform at the
Reading and Leeds Festival, in England, headlining the second day
of the three day festival.
Public Enemy at Vegoose in 2007. From left: DJ Lord, Chuck D, and
Terminator X's innovative scratching tricks can be heard on the
song "Rebel Without a Pause," and "Shut Em Down".
The Bomb Squad offered up a web of innovative samples and beats.
Critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine declared that PE "brought in
elements of free jazz, hard funk, even musique concrète, via
[its] producing team the Bomb Squad, creating a dense, ferocious
sound unlike anything that came before."
Public Enemy made contributions to the hip-hop world with political,
social and cultural consciousness; which infused itself into skilled
and poetic rhymes, using raucous sound collages as a foundation.
Public Enemy developed a strong pro-Black political stance. Before
PE, politically motivated hip-hop was defined to a few tracks by
Ice-T, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and KRS-One. Other
politically motivated opinions were shared by prototypical artists
Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets. PE was a revolutionary hip-hop
act, basing an entire image around a specified political stance.
With the successes of Public Enemy, many hip-hop artists began to
celebrate Afrocentric themes, such as Kool Moe Dee, Gang Starr, X
Clan, Eric B. & Rakim, Queen Latifah, the Jungle Brothers, and
A Tribe Called Quest. In the 1991 movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day,
John Connor (Edward Furlong) wears a Public Enemy t-shirt throughout
the entire movie, exhibiting PE's influence in mainstream venues.
Public Enemy was one of the first hip-hop groups to do well internationally.
PE changed the Internet's music distribution capability by being
one of the first groups to release MP3-only albums, a format
virtually unknown at the time.
Public Enemy helped to create and define "Rap metal" by
collaborating with New York Thrash metal outfit Anthrax in 1991.
The single "Bring The Noise" was a mix of semi-militant
black power lyrics, grinding guitars, and sporadic humor. The two
bands, cemented by a mutual respect and the personal friendship between
Chuck D and Anthrax's Scott Ian, introduced a hitherto alien genre
to rock fans, and the two seemingly disparate groups toured together.
Flavor Flav's pronouncement on stage that "They said this tour
would never happen" (as heard on Anthrax's Live: The Island
Years CD) has become a legendary comment in both rock and hip-hop
circles. Metal guitarists Vernon Reid (of Living Colour) contributed
to Public Enemy's recordings, and PE sampled Slayer's "Angel
of Death" half-time riff on "She Watch Channel Zero."
Members of the Bomb Squad produced or remixed works for other acts,
like Bell Biv DeVoe, Ice Cube, Vanessa Williams, Sinéad O'Connor,
Blue Magic, Peter Gabriel, L.L. Cool J, Paula Abdul, Jasmine Guy,
Jody Watley, Eric B & Rakim, Third Bass, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD,
and Chaka Khan. According to Chuck D, "We had tight dealings
with MCA Records and were talking about taking three guys that were
left over from New Edition and coming up with an album for them.
The three happened to be Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe,
later to become Bell Biv DeVoe. Ralph Tresvant had been slated to
do a solo album for years, Bobby Brown had left New Edition and experienced
some solo success beginning in 1988, and Johnny Gill had just been
recruited to come in, but [he] had come off a solo career and could
always go back to that. At MCA, Hiram Hicks, who was their manager,
and Louil Silas, who was running the show, were like, 'Yo, these
kids were left out in the cold. Can y'all come up with something
for them?' It was a task that Hank, Keith, Eric, and I took on to
try to put some kind of hip-hop-flavored R&B shit down for them.
Subsequently, what happened in the four weeks of December 
was that the Bomb Squad knocked out a large piece of the production
and arrangement on Bell Biv DeVoe's three-million selling album Poison.
In January , they knocked out Fear of a Black Planet in four
weeks, and PE knocked out Ice Cube's album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
in four to five weeks in February." They have also produced
local talent such as Son of Bazerk, Young Black Teenagers, Kings
of Pressure, and True Mathematics—and gave producer Kip Collins
his start in the business.
Poet and Hip-Hop artist Saul Williams uses a sample from Public
Enemy's "Welcome to the Terrordome" in his song "Tr[n]igger" on
the Niggy Tardust album. He also used a line from the song in his
poem, amethyst rocks.
Public Enemy's brand of politically & socially conscious hip
hop has been a direct influence on new hip hop artists such as The
Cornel West theory.
The Manic Street Preachers track "Repeat (Stars And Stripes)" is
a remix of the band's own anti-monarchy tirade by Public Enemy production
team The Bomb Squad of whom James Dean Bradfield and Richey Edwards
were big fans. The song samples "Countdown to Armageddon" from
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. The band had previously
sampled Public Enemy on their 1991 single Motown Junk.
American punk rock band NOFX references Public Enemy in their song "Franco
Unamerican", stating "I'm watching Michael Moore expose
the awful truth/I'm listening to Public Enemy and Reagan Youth."
The influence of the band goes largely beyond hip-hop as the group
was cited by artists as diverse as Autechre (selected in the All
Tomorrow's Parties (music festival) in 2003, Nirvana (It Takes a
Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back being cited by Kurt Cobain among
his favorite albums), Nine Inch Nails (mentioned the band in Pretty
Hate Machine credits), Björk (included Rebel Without a Pause
in her The Breezeblock Mix in July 2007), Tricky (did a cover of
Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos and appears in Do You Wanna Go Our
Way ??? video), Prodigy (included Public Enemy No. 1 in The Dirtchamber
Sessions Volume One), Ben Harper, Underground Resistance (cited by
both Mad Mike and Jeff Mills), Orlando Voorn, M.I.A., Amon Tobin,
Mathew Jonson and Aphex Twin (Welcome To The Terrordome being the
first track played after the introduction at the Coachella festival
in April 2008).
The groups last album to date is How You Sell Soul to a Soulless
People Who Sold Their Soul?. Public Enemy's single from the album
was "Harder Than You Think". "Though the group has
faded, the repercussions of Public Enemy are felt to this day. Public
Enemy showed that hip-hop was not, as Alan Light says, "just
a silly novelty, a fleeting fad."
 Pop culture
Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" plays a central role
in Spike Lee's 1989 film "Do the Right Thing." In addition
to opening the film with the actors dancing to the song, Character "Radio
Raheem" carries his beat-box everywhere listening to the same
song, prompting one character to ask if he ever listens to anything
else. Radio Raheem acts surprised and explains "It's Public
In 1989, in an interview with Public Enemy for the Washington Times,
the interviewing journalist, David Mills, lifted some quotations
from a UK magazine in which the band were asked their opinion on
the Arab-Israeli conflict. Professor Griff’s comments apparently
sympathized with the Palestinians and was accused of anti-Semitism.
According to Rap Attack 2, he suggested that "Jews are responsible
for the majority of the wickedness in the world" (p. 177). (In
turn a quote from The International Jew) Shortly after, Ridenhour
expressed an apology on his behalf. In an attempt to defuse the
situation, Ridenhour first fired Griffin. He later rejoined the group
in the album Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age. In the late 1990s, he rejoined
the band, and Ridenhour and Griffin took on a side project, the rap
rock outfit Confrontation Camp.
In his 2009 book, entitled "Analytixz", Griff criticized
his 1989 statement: "to say the Jews are responsible for the
majority of wickedness that went on around the globe I would have
to know about the majority of wickedness that went on around the
globe, which is impossible... I'm not the best knower. Then, not
only knowing that, I would have to know who is at the crux of all
of the problems in the world and then blame Jewish people, which
is not correct." Griff also said that not only were his words
taken out of context, but that the recording has never been released
to the public for an unbiased listen.
The controversy and apologies on behalf of Griff spurred Chuck D
to reference the negative press they were receiving. In 1990, Public
Enemy issued the single "Welcome to the Terrordome", which
contains the lyrics: "Crucifixion ain't no fiction / So-called
chosen frozen / Apologies made to whoever pleases / Still they got
me like Jesus". These lyrics have been cited by some in the
media as anti-Semitic, making supposed references to the Chosen People
with the lyric "so-called chosen" and Jewish deicide with
the last line.
In a letter to the editor, Leo Haber alludes to criticism by NY
Times writer Peter Watrous of the group's supposed "homophobia".
Reviewers John Alroy and David Bertrand Wilson said that Fear of
a Black Planet contained "homophobic babbling" which challenged
politically correct thinking.
Zoe Williams defended Public Enemy against charges of homophobia:
* If you look at the seminal black artists at the start of hip-hop,
Public Enemy and Niggaz With Attitude, you won't actually find much
homophobia. The only recorded homophobic lyric in Public Enemy's
canon was: "Man to man/ I don't know if they can/ From what
I know/ The parts don't fit"
Public Enemy have also been supporters of Nation of Islam Supreme
Minister Louis Farrakhan, who has been controversial for
his commentary which is often interpreted as being black nationalist,
homophobic, and anti-Semitic.
 Band members
* Chuck D – MC (1987–present)
* Flavor Flav (William Drayton) - hype man, occasional vocals
* DJ Lord (Lord Aswod) - DJ
* Professor Griff
 Former members
* Terminator X (Norman Rogers) - DJ, producer, Big Casper (Tracy
Walker), Brother James (James Norman), Brother Roger, The Interrorgator
(Shawn K Carter), Crunch
* * The Bomb Squad
+ Hank Shocklee (James Henry Boxley III)
+ Keith Shocklee (Keith Boxley)
+ Eric "Vietnam" Sadler
+ Gary G-Wiz (Gary Rinaldo)
+ Professor Griff (Richard Griffin)
+ Johnny "Juice" Rosado
Main article: Public Enemy discography
* 1987: Yo! Bum Rush the Show
* 1988: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
* 1990: Fear of a Black Planet
* 1991: Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black
* 1992: Greatest Misses
* 1994: Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age
* 1998: He Got Game
* 1999: There's a Poison Goin' On
* 2002: Revolverlution
* 2005: New Whirl Odor
* 2006: Rebirth of a Nation (with Paris)
* 2007: How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?