Public Enemy – Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Back: #393 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Public Enemy - Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Back

So why is Public Enemy’s Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Back on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Back is my favorite Public Enemy album and thus it holds the “highest” placement on this here best 1,000 albums ever project. The others to make the 1k list are:

I mention this to let you know that Apocalypse 91… for me is the best of the best ever Public Enemy record, but also that it’s interesting that those other two albums are not only on Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums list, but both also have a super high ranking, with Fear of a Black Planet at #176 and It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back all the way up at the #15 slot.

There are many reasons why Apocalypse 91… tops my personal PE rankings, and a huge one is that the songs which fall into the #3, #4, and #5 track positions are among the best three song runs in all of rap history.

It starts with Track #3, “Nighttrain,” a classically dense Public Enemy sound collage that’s both head bob-worthy while being super aggressive. And also look out for literal train horn samples in the mix.

Chuck D*, one of the best pure rappers I’ve ever heard, is at the top of his game both in terms of lyrics and delivery.

And the fiends they scheme
So he can put ‘em down
But his method is wreck ‘em
Put ‘em in the ground

* Don’t forget to check out Chuck D’s outstanding solo album, Autobiography of Mistachuck, #867 of best 1,000 albums ever.

Track #4 is “Can’t Truss It,” which is my favorite Public Enemy song of all. It boasts an exquisite horn sample, a hypnotic whine that blares wonderfully throughout as Chuck D packs rhyme after killer rhyme into every pocket of the mid-tempo beat. And let’s not forget our guy Flavor Flav, who forms the ideal presence and sidekick to Chuck D.

And speaking of Mr. Flav, he makes everything and more of taking lead mic on, “I Don’t Wanna Be Called Yo N—,”* which is Track #5.

* That last word of the song title is not spelled the way the “N word” is normally spelled, but I’m going with the “N” plus dashes method of displaying it here for multiple reasons.

Public Enemy has long been a highly political rap outfit, and racial inequality is sadly as relevant in 2023 as it was in 1991.

Arizona voted for Joe Biden for president in 2020 and currently has one Democratic and one former Democrat/current Independent Senator. And while Arizona has produced honorable conservatives – John McCain most notably – it is also the land of flatly racist politicians such as Joe Arpaio.

I mention this because back in the early 1990s, Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham “canceled” Martin Luther King Jr. Day, prompting Public Enemy to retort with the scathing, deep funk/rap cut, “By The Time I Get To Arizona.”

Nowadays, of course, we could just as easily have “By The Time I Get To Florida” or “By The Time I Get To Texas.”

Or wherever people like Donald Trump and his MAGA ilk are voted into power*.

* It’s the summer of 2023 at the time of this writing, and the 2024 U.S. election cycle is starting to heat up. It’s going to be another close election in which a stark choice will sit before the American people.

On a lighter note, I find the collaboration between Public Enemy and Anthrax on “Bring the Noize” to be a super fun and highly effective fusion of metal and rap, years before the term “nu metal” ever dropped onto the scene.

Some stats & info about Public Enemy – Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Back

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Hip Hop, Rap, Hardcore Rap, East Coast Rap, Golden Age, Political Rap
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Back released? 1991
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #393 out of 1,000

Public Enemy’s Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Back on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Public Enemy’s Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Back that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

Bass in your face, not an eight track, gettin’ it good to the wood so the people give you some a dat.

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.