Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black

Public Enemy

Def Jam / Columbia Records, 1991

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/20/1997

Public Enemy is a group that not only is one of the best rap groups ever to grace that genre, but it also transcended color barriers and attracted a wide audience of fans. Many wondered how they were going to top their album Fear Of A Black Planet - the answer was their following release, Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black.

From the opening beats of "Lost At Birth," you know you're in for one interesting trip. Lead vocalist Chuck D has a message for his fans behind the anger of his raps, while clown prince Flavor Flav surprises occasionally with some words of wisdom.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The song I remember most is "Can't Truss It," which they performed on Saturday Night Live at the time the album came out. "Track Attacker" Terminator X carves out a groove that sets you moving while Chuck D and Flavor Flav tap dance on your brain. It's a great feeling.

But the messages on this one - not just one of black empowerment - are the important things to note. Chuck D scolds African-Americans for abuse of alcohol (as well as the companies who manufacture the stuff) on "1 Million Bottlebags," speaks out against shoddy journalism ("A Letter To The New York Post") and anger at states throwing away the legal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ("By The Time I Get To Arizona").

But one of the strongest messages comes from Flavor Flav on the track "I Don't Wanna Be Called Yo [racist expression removed]." I have heard so many black comics and musicians use the term "[racist expression removed]" in description of their brethren - never mind the racist uses of the word - and Flavor Flav is fed up with it. He's absolutely right, too.

And within the messages are some great grooves - "Move!," "Nighttrain," and the duet with speed-metal band Anthrax on a cover of "Bring Tha Noize". All these factors combine to show why Public Enemy was the best in their genre. (Interesting to note that Anthrax, one of the first bands to salute rap music, toured with Public Enemy for a short while - and was respected by Public Enemy.)

You do have to approach Public Enemy with an open mind - put aside any prejudices you may have against rap music, don't go in thinking Public Enemy is anti-white (they're not), forget about Flavor Flav's legal problems over the past few years. Just listen to this one for the rhythms first, the raps second, and the most important part - the messages - last. You may be surprised to find all your preconceptions were wrong.

Apocalypse 91 was the best album Public Enemy ever put out, and is one that belongs in any respectable record collection.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Def Jam / Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.