It was a little confusing for a minute, with the number of forthcoming Public Enemy projects growing by the day. What was going on with the 'trilogy within a trilogy within a trilogy' series which 'Revolverlution' started, and when was the long talked about 'How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?' album going to surface? Oh, and what was up with the PE and Paris collaboration album?
Through the confusion comes one of PE's most energetic, powerful and impressive albums for a while. 'Revolverlution' included a healthy amount of new material, but one couldn't help but feel the remixes of old tracks could have been left out to make room for an entirely new release. This time everything feels right. The beats are extremely solid, offering a diverse range of sonic landscapes, whilst the lyrics are as thought provocative and powerful as ever. Chuck D sounds as pissed off as he always does, Flava Flav's background vocals continue to prove his worth as the greatest hype man of all time, Griff drops one of his most impressive verses to date and as always, the artwork is tight.
Album highlights include the early track 'Bring That Beat Back' which is produced by Abnormal. Apparently the beat was made as much as seven years ago, although it sounds extremely fresh and contemporary. '66.6 Strikes Again' is an interlude of radio show presenter and caller sound bites, drawing similarities to skits on the first two PE albums. 'MKLVFKWR' (Make Love Fuck War) is a loud and fast paced collaboration with producer Moby, which raises comparisons to the effects of classic tracks like 'Bring The Noise'. It's extremely intense and up there in the list of most ferocious and excited PE efforts of their entire career. 'What A Fool Believes' is a typically heavy and rock orientated production by Professor Griff whilst Abnormal's second beat contribution is as impressive as the first, and gives moshing listeners a chance to catch their breath a little.
The barely mentioned but long-time Public Enemy member and producer, Johnny Juice, produces a number of the albums tracks including 'Preachin' To The Quiet' that is a laid back head nodding affair and 'Either We Together Or We Aint' which is a very enjoyable instrumental which seems perfectly placed on the track list. Due to Chuck D's heavily charged lyrics, it's useful to have moments like this to ease the brain from the attack of substance it has undergone. 'Revolution' is a very moody track with a slightly dark beat. Guest appearances by Society and Free make a strong impact, whilst Professor Griff's verse is likely to catch those more accustomed to him as a spoken word artist, a little off guard.
The album approaches its end with the entertaining sample based 'As Long As The People Got Something To Say', 'Y'all Don't Know' which is a leftfield Griff affair and 'Either You Get It By Now Or You Don't' which is a mixture of cuts and speeches by C-Doc. 'Superman's Black In The Building' includes live bass, drums, guitar and saxophone. It's a generous eleven minutes long and feels retrospective of everything that Public Enemy has always been about.
As if all this wasn't enough, the album includes a DVD containing four brand new music videos, a documentary, a photo gallery, biographies and more, making this the most value for money releases of the year. Perhaps the only criticisms to be made of the LP is that there isn't a solo Flava Flav track, probably due to the number of 'reality' TV shows he's been involved in of late, although one of the DVD video's is of a track he handles all the vocals of. Also, on a few occasions the scratches and cuts slice up snippets of old PE albums. This has been the case on their last few projects and it seems a little overdone or predictable.
But there's really nothing else to fault the project, which builds anticipation of a silly height for the forthcoming Public Enemy comic book, the Paris produced album dropping Jan' 2006, 'How To Sell Soul…' coming at you summer '06, a Flava Flav greatest hits in spring, a live 'best of' album, a career spanning 5 disc box set with DVD, a remix album in 2007, and two double disked albums celebrating the first two groundbreaking PE albums which started it all off. Public Enemy are more alive than they ever were, and show no signs of easing the foot off the accelerator.
Review side notes: Be sure to check out the free internet release of 'Hell No, We Aint Alright' which explores the situation of the New Orleans disaster, and 'Bin Laden' featuring Mos Def and Immortal Technique. Check out www.publicenemy.com for regular editorials by Chuck D in the 'Terrordome' section, as well as PE's online, under underground virtual record label www.slamjamz.com The PE archives site can be found at www.shutemdown.com whilst www.rapstation.com is a bureau for rap music, new artists and interactivity.