Following up from the landmark It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back should have been a tricky prospect for the now internationally famous Public Enemy. They attacked the popular conscious with their songs dissecting social ills in America to the applause of many and the dismay of others who saw their aggressive hip-hop as the beginning of some mob lead revolt. Anti-Semitic comments made by the bands head of security Professor Griff had landed the group in hot water, leading to his expulsion from the outfit.
One thing is instantly clear as the album kicks off; Public Enemy didn’t seem to let any of their new found fame and infamy effect the quality of the production. The music on Fear of a Black Planet feels slicker, not over-produced by it sounds like they went for an equipment upgrade. ‘Brothers Gonna Work It Out’ shows the bands fineness-ing of their sample led beats. The band themselves compared producer Keith Shocklee as the Phil Spector of the group and that certainly rings true as the track incorporates guitar riffs, group chants, Prince vocal samples, a funk led drum beat, a dissonant piano chord. Musically it seems to some up the crazy couple of years the group have had since their success which Chuck D raps about in his own indomitable way.
If anything PE seemed to be angrier on Fear of a Black Planet. Song titles alone will clue you in to some of the subjects on the table ‘911 is a Joke’, ‘Anti-Ni***r Machine’ and ‘Pollywanacracka’. The overall theme and formula remains the same Chuck D lays down some righteous truth whilst Flava Flav hypes his way through most of the tracks, although he gets a couple of solos here and there. Everything’s just turned up that bit more. ‘Burn Hollywood Burn’, ‘Power to the People’ and ‘Revolutionary Generation’ have a more inspirational tone to them offering some form of redemption out of the situations the rest of the album covers. ‘Burn Hollywood Burn’ is worth hearing just to hear Chuck D share a track with Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane. The album also features the incendiary ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ and bona-fide classic ‘Fight the Power’. Much like it’s predecessor it’s an essential album that sounds just as vital today as it did back in 1990, which in a way is both admirable and upsetting. Together It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet stand together as one of the greatest double feature in music history.
The newly released Deluxe Edition comes with remixes of ‘Brothers Gonna Work It Out’, ‘Can’t Do Nutthin’ For Ya Man’ and ‘Fight the Power’, elsewhere there’s instrumentals and a couple of extended version. Maybe a release for the die-hards only but still it’s an album you need in your collection.