Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" video(s) + "Son of a Bush"

Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" (here's the long version) aptly demonstrates why P.E. is still widely considered one of the most important hip hop acts, for their stylistic innovations and postmodern walls of sound (recycling music, sound bytes, noise, tape loops, etc.), their rap styles, and, of course, their message.

One of the most intriguing elements is how they employ the symbols and images of an earlier cultural era--the late 1960s and early 1970s of the Black Panther Party, who influenced a very young Chuck D. with their breakfast program. In a sense, one might see their employment of such images and language as nostalgia, commodifications, or even as kitsch--but as a young person, I saw them as absolutely real. And, actually, so did plenty of people seeing them for the first time. (To wit, I've never seen a critique of P.E. as commodifiers of Black Power)...

Was I merely fooled? I don't think so. They are performances of a certain kind of political subjectivity, situated twenty years after their initial appearance on the scene. Having seen the movements destroyed from without (and sometimes from within), Public Enemy saw in music a way to resurrect the spirit of Black Power, recycled just as the music would recycle their heroes and enemies. Hip-hop, for P.E. and for so many other rappers, was a way to kickstart a new consciousness, if not a fully outfitted movement.

To prove their ongoing relevance, and their continued contribution to docupoetic musicality, check out their "Son of a Bush":

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