Fear Of A Black Planet: Public Enemy 20 Years Later


Billboard had a chance to sit down with the legendary hip-hop icons Public Enemy. But before we drop you some excerpts from their interview. We would just like to know can we ever get hip-hop like that back on the mainstream again? Read more below.

Twenty Years After ‘Fear Of A Black Planet,’ Public Enemy Members, Collaborators And Colleagues Celebrate Its Anniversary. Members of hip-hop’s elite took the stage last September at Brooklyn’s Academy of Music as part of VH1’s sixth annual Hip-Hop Honors to celebrate the 25th anniversary of prominent hip-hop label Def Jam Records.

But one standout performance was by one of the label’s legendary groups: Public Enemy. Backed by the Roots and members of Street Sweeper Social Club as well as PE’s S1W group, Flavor Flav, wearing a white tuxedo, top hat and trademark clock, took the stage with longtime partner Chuck D and SSSC’s Boots Riley for an electrifying performance of “Rebel Without a Pause” from PE’s 1988 rap classic, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.” The album has sold 722,000 copies in the United States since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.

Today, PE is celebrating an anniversary of its own, as 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of the act’s politically driven third album, 1990’s “Fear of a Black Planet.” The set has sold 561,000 units since 1991, according to SoundScan, but there are reports that it sold 1 million copies in its first week, which was before SoundScan began tracking sales. It debuted at No. 40 on the Billboard 200, peaked at No. 10 and was certified platinum by the RIAA for shipment of 1 million units.

Video interview: Chuck D tells Billboard.com about what went into making Public Enemy’s landmark album, “Fear of a Black Planet.”

“Chuck D had this concept for the cover of ‘Fear of a Black Planet’-the idea was to have two planets eclipsing: the Public Enemy planet and the Earth,” recalls Cey Adams, creative director for Def Jam from 1984 to 1999. He adds that a NASA illustrator was hired to create the cover. “It was so interesting to me that a black hip-hop act did an illustration for their album cover. At that time black hip-hop artists, for the most part, had photos of themselves on their covers. But this was the first time someone took a chance to do something in the rock’n'roll vein.”

To match its wrapping, “Fear of a Black Planet” contained lyrical themes concerning organization and empowerment within the African-American community, while presenting criticism of social issues affecting African-Americans at the time.

To present this message-heavy concept, the group released tracks like “Fight the Power,” which was first available in 1989 on the soundtrack to the Spike Lee film “Do the Right Thing” and arguably the group’s biggest hit. (It reached No. 1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart and No. 20 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.)

“I think that between the statement Spike was making with the film and the statement Public Enemy was making with the song, you knew it was beyond powerful,” says producer Gary “G-Wiz” Rinaldo, a former member of PE’s in-house production team the Bomb Squad.

Former Def Jam director of publicity Bill Adler concurs. “That song really enriched the movie and vice versa. That was a hell of a marriage right there-that was one of the greatest uses of a song in a movie in the history of cinema as far as I’m concerned,” he says.

To read more of this interview click here.
Side Note: Has hip-hop progressed or digressed since them?

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  1. 1
    Tommy Blaze // March 17th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    The best Dam Hip-Hop group ever…bring the noise!!!!!

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