In 1986, the founder of Def Jam records Rick Rubin, in cooperation with Bill Stephney, signed an MC named Chuck D to his label. Said MC came up with a plan, that involved combining politically charged lyrics with hard-hitting productions. To that end, he formed Public Enemy with his two friends, hype-man Flavor Flav and DJ Terminator X, and assembled the Bomb Squad to produce their albums. The result is one of the most highly regarded hip-hop groups of all time.The hallmarks of Public Enemy's style are the interplay between Chuck D's sociopolitical diatribes (delivered in a booming, Large Ham-my voice) and Flavor Flav's comic relief humour (high-pitched squealing) and The Bomb Squad's dense, innovative productions, incorporating many samples at once, and even harsh, unmusical sounds.Their first three albums often appear on lists of the best hip-hop albums of all time.
Concept Album: Most of their albums deal with the problems faced by the black community in the USA and the government's oppression.
Concept Video: "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" depicts Chuck and a few of his compatriots escaping from a prison.
Corpsing: Flav at the end of "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man".
Courtroom Episode: "Caught, Can We Get A Witness?" is framed in a courtroom setting, complete with banging gavel at the beginning.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Flavor Flav, especially in recent years, seems more like a caricature of a rapper than a genuine MC. But he is by all accounts a very intelligent guy, and plays fifteen instruments. This made Terminator X's job easier because instead of looking for certain samples, Flav could just play them and X would use his recording.
Early-Installment Weirdness: Yo! Bum Rush the Show can throw people off if they hear it after the later material... in fact, you hardly ever hear Chuck rapping about having sex:
Chuck D(from "Timebomb"): I'll be the burger, you can be the bun, girl!
Iconic Item: Flavor Flav and his giant clock medallions. To a lesser extent, his Viking helmet.
Image Song: you could make an argument for "Bring the Noise".
In The Style Of: the "Bring the Noise" collaboration with Anthrax on Apocalypse 91.
Done once again recently with "Bring the Noise 20XX", a new mix featuring Zakk Wylde on guitar (and half of the original lyrics), featured on Guitar Hero 5.
Kent Brockman News: The video for "Night Of The Living Baseheads" is set up as a newscast. Flavor Flav is one of the anchors for the fictional PETV, comedian Chris Thomas and rapper MC Lyte are field reporters, and Chuck D is the subject of a kidnapping. The video doesn't take itself too seriously, as judged by the "Beeper Tie" commercial.
"Pollywannacracka" discusses this trope, and ends with the following verse:
I try to tell my people There should not be any hatred For a brother or a sister Whose opposite race they've mated Cause no man is God And God put us all here (yeah) But this system has no wisdom The devil split us in pairs
Precision F-Strike: The only vulgarities on It Takes A Nation are in "Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos", "Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic" and "Rebel Without A Pause" ("I see you pissin' in your pants, you're scared of dissin' us").
The Quiet One: Terminator X was a man of few words, offering no vocal contributions on the albums (in fact, the final track on Yo Bum Rush The Show is called "Terminator X Speaks With His Hands") and not speaking much, if at all, during group interviews.
Rap Metal: "Bring The Noize" (with Anthrax), "She Watch Channel Zero!?" (sampling Slayer's "Angel of Death"), "Sophisticated Bitch" (guitar played by Living Colour's Vernon Reid).
Shout-Out In the song "Bring The Noise", they name drop rap artists Eric B, LL Cool J, Run DMC , as well as non rap artists Sonny Bono, Yoko Ono, and Anthrax.
In "Burn Hollywood Burn", which is a Take That towards racist Hollywood movies, Big Daddy Kane is heard saying "Yo, I've got Black Caesar back at the crib", indicating that Larry Cohen's independent film starring Fred Williamson (considered a classic of the Blaxploitation genre) is a more dignified portrayal of black characters, as it doesn't feature its black cast being denigrated to butlers, slaves or "jigaboos". The same song also proclaims "lets make our own movies like Spike Lee".
While they eventually softened on their view on Elvis Presley in "Fight The Power," their stance on John Wayne (rightfully) remains just as much "Up Yours" as ever.note "Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me / Straight up racist that sucker was simple and plain / Yeah! Motherfuck him and John Wayne!"
"Amerikan Gangster" is a big one towards Gangsta Rap and Glam Rap, done in the style of said genres.
"Burn Hollywood Burn", towards racist portrayals of black characters in Hollywood cinema, particularly films that have blacks portrayed as servants/slaves or engaging in Uncle Tomfoolery. In particular, Driving Miss Daisy is criticized as a "bullshit" movie.
"Hitler Day". Nope, not aimed at Der Fuhrer himself, but Christopher Columbus and his alleged atrocities. And they sum it up by saying that Columbus Day "is as crazy as Hitler Day".
Any references in the It Takes A Nation album to "Honeydrippers" are aimed at the seminal funk band most famous for their "Impeach The President" single, and not the Robert Plant side project from The Eighties.