Why is Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet on my best 1,000 albums ever list?
Fight the power, indeed.
What does Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?
By the time I hit my final semester as an undergraduate at Binghamton University in New York, I had satisfied all the credits I needed to earn a BA in History. Therefore, it was time to partake in the hallowed tradition of taking some goof off classes.
However, as it turned out, selecting a class called Rock, Pop, and Soul was one of the more interesting and memorable experiences of all my college years.
For example, one day when we walked into class, the professor hit play and “Fight the Power,” off Fear of a Black Planet, started booming. I had long dug and respected the song – and the same goes for Public Enemy generally – but that day’s lecture lead to a much deeper appreciation for the song and rap group both.
Our professor broke down the polyrhythms, sound layers, and sound collages going on, and then on top of that, Chuck D’s highly technical and exceptional rapping. Add to that of course the powerful lyrics that tie both to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and the Isley Brothers’ song of the same title.
The “Fight the Power” music video does a pretty great job of capturing the energy and political messaging of the song. And then I’m also reminded what a striking pairing Chuck D and Flavor Flav make both musically and as performers as well.
And speaking of Flavor Flav, the clock-necklace wielding future reality TV star gets a true showcase with “911 Is A Joke,” which is both a rollicking party song musically and an indictment of broken societal structures meant to support the most vulnerable among us, on par with what The Wire and We Own This City do with television.
“Welcome to the Terrordome” is another song with an overwhelming wall of sound of sorts and overlapping samples and rhythms. Its highly meticulous production shows precise intent at every turn.
Personal stuff that has something to do with Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet
Speaking of Binghamton U. and Public Enemy once again, I lived in the Dickinson dorms for my first three years (the third as a Resident Advisor). My friendship with my future frequent traveling companion (and future best man) Adam solidified over going to music shows and playing music together, Adam on guitar and myself on bass guitar.
Occasionally, we’d head over to the Newing dorms to play music, which were across the main road, called The Brain because it encircled much of the main campus and sort of formed the shape of a brain, from Dickenson. We’d play in the dorm room of a guy named Scott if memory serves who also played guitar.
Dickinson was known as the dorms where the nerdier more studious types tended to live, whereas Newing tilted more to the frat/sorority scene. And you felt that as soon as you crossed The Brain. When we’d play music over there, a bunch of other people would grab their own guitars, and I can recall long jam sessions to songs like Jimi Hendrix’ “Hey Joe.”
I also recall that Scott was an outgoing guy and pretty popular among that Newing scene. His dorm room phone would often ring, and he’d pick up the phone and announce things like, “Welcome to the Terrordome!” as his greeting to the caller.
Some stats & info about Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? East Coast Rap, Rap, Hip Hop, Hardcore Rap, Political Rap, Golden Age
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #176
- All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
- When was Fear of a Black Planet released? 1990
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #730 out of 1,000
Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet on Spotify
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.