Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Whose Music Will You Run To For Shelter?

Goddamn, I woke up in a bad mood this morning. But then I remembered Public Enemy.

Sure, this is recent PE, acknowledged universally as not as good as classic PE. But hell, it's a banger, and has the triumphant horn sections that the Bomb Squad are famous for. Rumour has it that PE's production went downhill with the advent of tighter copywrite protection of samples, when the legal industry started taking note of what rappers were up to. Rich white dudes suing poor black dudes, attempting to take away what was a fierce form of personal expression, the Black CNN, which happened to call out those rich white dudes? Yeah, let's stop pretending that was all about protecting the rights of the original artists, shall we? Kinda reminds me of what happened in Iraq, where the first laws enacted under the new Mission Accomplished American Regime were copywrite laws. Not laws determining how the new government would run, not laws defining how elections would run, not laws to ensure the population would be fed and hydrated and housed, but laws protecting the Iraqi people from the scourge of pirated copies of the Lion King.

I was already pretty politically aware by the time I discovered PE, and it was initially the politics and aggression that drew me to them - it was like punk rock with beats, big fat cacophonies of noise, blasting through with righteous lyrics that I could shout at teachers when they were, like, trying to oppress me, man.

But as I got more and more into them, it was the production that kept me there. Those layers of sound, those James Brown breaks. In the "Welcome To The Terrordome" movie there's a sweet bit where the band are all sitting in the back of a van. It's real early on in the PE timeline, and they're all real skinny and wearing all black. Someone puts on a James Brown track and they all just start really getting into it, nodding their heads and generally feeling it. It's a killer moment, and it makes you just a little more aware of their musicianship, how they are songwriters first and political orators second.

There's so much PE on YouTube that it's difficult to find individual songs - for example, I've been looking for the above clip from that movie for months now, without success. I was looking for an example of how the band eventually overcame the sampling problem, and eventually I remembered this clip. I guess by this stage PE were rich enough and famous enough to simply call the guy who made the original, and see if he wanted to play on their new version.

Plus, it's a nice mellow track to end on.

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