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Public Enemy or PE is an influential hip hop group from Long Island, New York. The band is characterized distinctly for its politically charged lyrics, criticism of the media, and active interest in the concerns of the African American community.
Man behind the group, Chuck D, developed his talents as an MC with Flavor Flav while delivering furniture for his father's business. He and Spectrum City, as the group was called, released an album called Check out the Radio.
The record was backed by a social commentary named Lies. As a result of both releases, they were signed to the still developing Def Jam Recordings record label.
Around 1986, Bill Stephney was approached by Rubin and offered him a position with the label. After accepting the offer, Stephneys first assignment was to help Rubin sign Chuck D, whose song Public Enemy Number One he had heard from Andre Doctor Dre Brown. Chuck recruited Spectrum City, which included Hank Shocklee, his brother Keith Shocklee, and Eric Vietnam Sadler.
They were collectively called the Bomb Squad and were enlisted on Chucks production team. Later another Spectrum City partner Professor Griff was added who became the group's Minister of Information. Flavor Flav and another local mobile DJ Terminator X completed the line-up for Public Enemy.
Public Enemy came up with their debut album, entitled Yo! Bum Rush The Show in 1987. The album received critical acclaim and was followed by the bands another album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Unlike the debut album, this album performed better in the charts.
It spawned several hit singles including Don't Believe the Hype and Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos. The following year, Public Enemy appeared with their third album, they called it Nation of Millions. The album was voted Album of the Year by the The Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll and also became the first hip-hop album to be ranked number one by predominantly rock critics in a major periodical.
In 1989, Public Enemy did an interview for the Washington Times during which the interviewing journalist, David Mills, lifted some quotes from a UK magazine. The band was asked their opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Professor Griffs comments apparently sympathized with the Palestinians.
As a result, a media firestorm was set off. Griff was accused of anti-Semitism, when Public Enemy enjoyed unprecedented mainstream attention with their Fight the Power single from the soundtrack of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing.
In 1990, Public Enemy issued another full-length album called Fear of a Black Planet. Containing the politically charged themes, the album became the most successful of all the bands albums. In 2005, it was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress. It included the singles 911 (is a Joke), and Fight The Power.
The former song criticized emergency response units for taking longer to arrive at emergencies in the black community than those in the white community. While, the Fight the Power was regarded among the most popular and influential in hip-hop history and was the theme song of Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing.
Followed to the release of Fear of a Black Planet was Public Enemys next release, Apocalypse '91...The Enemy Strikes Black. The album spawned songs like Can't Truss It and I Don't Wanna be Called Yo Niga. Apocalypse 91s album also featured the controversial song By the Time I Get to Arizona. Its video featured members of the band taking out their frustrations on politicians in the states not recognizing the holiday.
The song Meet The G That Killed Me contained lyrics that portrayed gay men as being the perpetrators of the spread of the 1980s AIDS epidemic: Man to man / I don't know if they can / From what I know / The parts don't fit / Ahh shit / How he's sharin' a needle / With a drug addict / He don't believe he has it either / ...But the bag popped.
Around this time, despite Griffin's denial, Ridenhour fired Griffin in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Ridenhour later disbanded the group but Griffin rejoined Public Enemy. When Public Enemy reformed, its members initially begin recording without Griffin. In 1990, the band released the single Welcome to the Terrordome, which contained the lyrics: Crucifixion ain't no fiction / So-called chosen frozen / Apologies made to whoever pleases / Still they got me like Jesus.
The lyrics were picked up 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. Public Enemy have also been criticized for homophobia.
In addition to producing music, the hip hop group Public Enemy has also endorsed Nation of Islam Supreme Minister Louis Farrakhan. Louis has been controversial for his commentary which is often strongly perceived as racist, black nationalist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic.
Chuck D had put out a tape to promote WBAU and to fend off a local emcee who wanted to battle him. D called the tape Public Enemy number 1 because he felt like he was being persecuted by people in the local scene. The single was created by Chuck D with a contribution by Flavor Flav and it was before Public Enemy was officially assembled.
Chuck D believes that The S1W, which stands for Security of the First World, represents that the black man can be just as intelligent as he is strong as well as stands for the fact that we're not third-world people, we're first-world people; we're the original people of the earth.
In 2004, Acclaimed Music ranked New York based Public Enemy the 29th most recommended musical act of all time and the highest hip-hop group.
While, the Rolling Stone Magazine ranked them number forty-four on its list of the Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Public Enemy were inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.