Fear of a Black Planet is Public Enemy's third album, released in 1990. It was a New Sound Album where the band explored themes of African-American and black political and social awareness and organizing themselves against institutional racism. Praised for its depth and a sonic soundscape made of literally hundreds of different samples, it has been named one of their masterpieces, certainly in terms of ambitiousness. Hits are "Fight The Power", "Welcome To The Terrordome", "911 Is A Joke", "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" and "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man".
In 2005 it was added to the National Recording Registry for its "historical, cultural and aesthetical value".
- "Contract on the World Love Jam" (1:44)
- "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" (5:07)
- "911 Is A Joke" (3:17)
- "Incident At 66.6 FM" (1:37)
- "Welcome to the Terrordome" (5:25)
- "Meet the G That Killed Me" (0:44)
- "Pollywanacracka" (3:52)
- "Anti-Nigger Machine" (3:17)
- "Burn Hollywood Burn" (2:47)
- "Power to the People" (3:50)
- "Who Stole the Soul?" (3:49)
- "Fear Of A Black Planet" (3:45)
- "Revolutionary Generation" (5:43)
- "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man" (2:46)
- "Reggie Jax" (1:35)
- "Leave This Off Your Fuckin' Charts" (2:31)
- "B Side Wins Again" (3:45)
- "War At 33 1/3" (2:07)
- "Final Count of the Collision Between Us and the Damned" (0:48)
- "Fight the Power" (4:42)
Welcome to the Troperdome
- Alliterative Title: "Burn Hollywood Burn", "Power to the People", "Who Stole the Soul?"
- Amen Break: Sampled in "Who Stole the Soul?"
- Black Gal on White Guy Drama: The first verse of "Pollywannacracka".
- "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" uses the line "kick that (party for your right)", which is a Call-Back to "Party For Your Right" from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
- The lines Uzi down the bullets in the gun/ Just microwave themselves a ton and Gotcha runnin' from the gun (pow) Of a brain that weighs a ton in "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man" is a reference to the band's earlier single "Miuzu Weighs A Ton". The line "Yo, bum rush the show" is a shout-out to the band's debut "Yo! Bum Rush the Show".
- Their 2012 album "Most Of My Heroes Still Don't Appear On No Stamps" is a call back to a line from "Fight The Power".
- Concept Album: Black political and social awareness is a major theme.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The cover shows a "black" planet and Earth eclipsing. The concept was thought out by Chuck D. and designed by B.E. Johnson, a black illustrator who worked at NASA.
- Downer Ending: "Brothers Gonna Work It Out": A group of young, energetic activists bring their petition to the authorities... only to have the authorities send it straight to the trash can.
- Fading into the Next Song: "Incident at 66.6 FM" fades into "Welcome to the Terrordome".
- Funetik Aksent: "Pollywannacracka", "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man".
- Hurricane of Puns:
- "Brothers Gonna Work It Out"To condition your condition
- "Revolutionary Generation"Not to head the warning crack of dawn
Or is it the dawn of crack?
- "Who Stole The Soul?"Like I wanna know who stole picked Wilson's pocket?
- "Brothers Gonna Work It Out"
- It's All About Me: The band attacks this attitude in "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man".
- Maligned Mixed Marriage:
- The 'maligned' part of this trope is heavily criticized in "Fear of a Black Planet."
- "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
- Misogyny Song: Discussed in "Revolutionary Generation", which criticizes sexism within the black community and misogyny in hip hop culture.
- Music Is Politics: "Who Stole The Soul" is an attack of the exploitation of black musicians by white record producers.
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: The album criticizes America's long running history of racism against black people, but doesn't shy away from addressing criticism within the black community too.Where is it why'd you try to fool the Black?
It wasn't you, but you pledge allegiance
To the red, white, and blue sucker that stole the soul!
- New Sound Album: "Fear Of A Black Planet" was an ambitious record, where the group strived to make their masterpiece, equal to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Revolutionary Generation".
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: "Reggie Jax"I never tried to pretend to have an accent that I never had
- N-Word Privileges: Exercised a number of times on this album, including in the title of "Anti-Nigger Machine".
- One-Word Title: "Pollywannacracka".
- Pacifism: "Fear Of A Black Planet"All I want is peace and love on this planet
(Ain't how that God planned it?)
- Police Are Useless/Worst Aid: "911 Is A Joke" is about how emergency services fail to deliver in poor and often black neighborhoods, often arriving too late to save anyone.Now I dialed 911 a long time ago
Don't you see how late they're reacting?
They only come and they come when they wanna
So get the morgue truck and embalm the goner
They don't care cause they stay paid anyway
They treat you like an ace that can't beat a trey
A no-use number with no-use people
If your life is on the line, then you're dead today
- Pop-Star Composer: "Fight the Power" was originally written as the theme to the Spike Lee joint Do the Right Thing from the previous year.
- Protest Song: The album contains themes of organization and empowerment within the African-American community and criticism of the power elite, white supremacy and institutional racism. Yet at the same time Chuck D. also has critical message to black listeners, informing them to know their historical past and learn from it and avoid drugs, violence and shallow materialism. From "Welcome to the Terrordome"Every brother ain't a brother
Cause a Black hand squeezed on Malcolm X the man note
The shooting of Huey Newton from a hand of a Nig who pulled the trig note
It's weak to speak and blame somebody else
When you destroy yourself
First nothing's worse than a mother's pain
Of a son slain in Bensonhurst note
- Questioning Title?: "Who Stole the Soul?"
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Seeing that Public Enemy has always been politically and socially consciousness it comes to no surprise that this album takes a lot of its inspiration from historical and real-life events. "Welcome to the Terrordome" references the murder of Yusef Hawkins and the 1989 riots in Virginia Beach. The song also addresses Public Enemy member Professor Griff's anti-semitic remarks which caused controversy in the media. "Revolutionary Generation" also has the line "I'm tired of America dissin' my sisters (like they dissed Tawana)", which is a reference to Tawana Bawley, who accused 6 white men, including police officers of having raped her. "Incident at 666 FM-" is composed out of actual snippets from a radio interview with Public Enemy and the comments from callers.
- "Contract On The World Love Jam" has samples from Richard Pryor's "Just Us", "Summertime" by Billy Stewart, "What'cha Say" by the Meters, "Uphill Piece of Mind" by Kid Dynamite, "I Got You (I Feel Good)" by James Brown, "Get Off Your Ass And Jam" by Funkadelic from Lets Take It To The Stage, "Take Me To The Mardi Gras" by Bob James, "Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music" by The Spinners and "Hobo Scratch" by Malcolm McLaren and World's Famous Supreme Team.
- "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" is built from samples of "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince from Purple Rain, "Atomic Dog" by George Clinton, "Buffalo Gals" by Malcolm McLaren, "Synthetic Substitution" by Melvin Bliss, "Brother Green, the Disco King" by Roy Ayers, "Sing A Simple Song" by Sly and the Family Stone from Stand!, "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" by James Brown, "Fantastic Freaks at the Dixie" by DJ Grand Wizard Theodore, "Let A Woman Be A Woman, Let A Man Be A Man" by Dyke & the Blazers, "Rappers Ain't No Thang" by the Boogie Boys and others and Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise", "Don't Believe the Hype" and "Rebel Without A Pause" from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
- "911 Is A Joke" samples "Flash Light" from Funkentelechy Vs The Placebo Syndrome by Parliament, Vincent Price's laughter from Michael Jackson's Thriller, "Misunderstood" by Mico Wave, "Think (About It)" by Lyn Collins, "Gottago Gottago" by Robin Harris, "Somethin' Funky" by Big Daddy Kane, "Devil With The Bust" by Sound Experience, "Feel Like Dancing" by Wilbur "Bad" Bascomb" and "Hit the Car" and "Singers" by Eddie Murphy.
- "Welcome to the Terrordome" relies on samples from "AJ Scratch" by Kurtis Blow, "Mother Universe" by Soup Dragons, "Bon Bon Vie" by T.S. Monk, "Seventh Heaven" by Gwen Guthrie, "Operator's Choice" by Mikey Dread, "Jungle Boogie" by Kool & the Gang, "Train Sequence" by Geoffrey Sumner, "I Got My Mind Made Up" by Instant Funk, "Hum Along and Dance" by The Jackson 5, "Psychedelic Shack" and "Cloud Nine" by The Temptations, "You're Gonna Get Yours" by Public Enemy themselves and James Brown's "Cold Sweat", "I Got To Move", "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose", "Soul Power, Pts. 1 & 2" and "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved".
- "Pollywanacracka" samples "Let's Dance" by Pleasure, "Flash Light" from Parliament's Funkentelechy Vs The Placebo Syndrome, "Think" by Lyn Collins, "Atomic Dog" by George Clinton, "Different Strokes" by Syl Johnson, "Jungle Boogie" by Kool & the Gang, "More Bounce to the Ounce" by Zapp, "Cracked Out" by Masters of Ceremony, "Schoolboy Crush" by the Average White Band, "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" by Schoolly D from the album Schoolly D, "South Bronx" by Boogie Down Productions, "Love Child" by Diana Ross and The Supreme"s, "Dance To The Drummer's Beat" by Herman Kelly & Life, "I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You" by Leon Haywood, "The 900 Number" by DJ Mark the 45 King feat. Lakim Shabazz, "We Got More Soul" by Dyke & The Blazers and "Funky Hot Grits" by Rufus Thomas.
- "Anti-Nigger Machine" is full of samples by "Nautilius" by Bob James, "There It Is" by James Brown, "Buffalo Gals" by Malcolm McLaren, "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" from Public Enemy's own It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, "Last Night Changed It All" by Esther Williams.
- The samples from "Burn Hollywood Burn" are "Hot Wheels" by Badder Than Evil, "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (Remix)" by James Brown and "Dance to the Drummer's Beat" by Herman Kelly & Life.
- "Power to the People" is full of samples from "Drop the Bomb" by Trouble Funk, "Gimmer Some More" by The J.B.'s, "Theme from Shaft by Isaac Hayes, "Wild And Loose" by The Time, "Turn Me Loose" by Sly and the Family Stone.
- "Who Stole The Soul?" has samples such as "Think" by Lyn Collins, "Amen, Brother" by The Winstons, Stand! by Sly and the Family Stone, "Bring the Noise" from Public Enemy's own It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, "The Elevator" by Bob Prescott and Cy Harrice, "A Day In The Life" and "Getting Better" from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, "It's A New Day So Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn" and "Make It Funky" by James Brown and "Blow Your Whistle" by Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers.
- "Fear Of A Black Planet" has samples from "Long Red (Live)" by Mountain, "Holy Ghost" by the Bar-Kays, "Summertime" by Billy Stewart, "Flyte Time" by the Blackbyrds, "Different Strokes" by Syl Johnson, "Underdog" by Sly and the Family Stone, "Spirit of the Boogie" by Kool & the Gang and "Modern Women" by Eddie Murphy.
- The samples of "Revolutionary Generation" are lifted from "Deep" from Parliament's Motor Booty Affair, "Peter Piper" from RunD.M.C.'s Raising Hell, "Listen to Me" by Baby Huey, "Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth, "We Got Our Own Thing" by C.J. and CO, "Where Did Our Love Go?" by Diana Ross and The Supremes, "Ain't We Funky Now?" by the Brothers Johnson, "Knock Him Out, Sugar Ray" by E.U., "Show 'Em Whatcha Got" by Public Enemy themselves, "Lesson 2" by Double Dee and Steinski and "I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To" by The Soul Children.
- "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man" contains samples from "I Believe In Miracles" by the Jackson Sisters, "Hot Pants" by Bobby Byrd, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" from Michael Jackson's Off the Wall and "If You Don't Get It Right, Back Up And Try It Again Party" by James Brown.
- "Leave This Off Your Fuckin' Charts" is provided with samples from "I Can't Go For That" by Hall & Oates, "The Goodnight Kiss" by Richard Pryor, "Self-Destruction" by Stop the Violence Movement, "It's Nasty" from The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and "Just Rhymin' With Biz" by Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie.
- "B Side Wins Again" samples from "N.T." by Kool & the Gang, "Assembly Line" by The Commodores, "Tougher than Leather" by RunD.M.C., "Live Convention '82, Pts 1 & 2" by Master Rob, "I Can't Stop" by John Davis and the Monster Orchestra and "Catch A Groove" by Juice.
- "Fight The Power" closes with samples from "Teddy's Jam" by Guy, "Bird Of Prey" by Uriah Heep, "Hot Pants Road", "Funky President" and "Funky Drummer" by James Brown, "Pump Me Up" by Trouble Funk, "Spoonin' Rap" by Spoonie Gee, "Give It To Me Baby" by Rick James, "Different Strokes by Syl Johnson, "I Shot The Sherrif" from Bob Marley's Burnin', "I Know You Got Soul" by Bobby Byrd, "Sing A Simple Song" by Sly and the Family Stone from Stand!, "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" by The Dramatics, "Let's Dance (Make Your Body Move)" by the West Street Mob and "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force.
- "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" references Jimi Hendrix' song "Third Stone From The Sun" from Are You Experienced.So many of us in limbo
How to get it on, it's quite simple
Three stones from the sun
We need a piece of this rock
- "Incident At 666 FM" references the fact that Public Enemy were once the warm up to The Beastie Boys.
- "Welcome To The Terrordome" uses the phrases "rope a dope" (referencing Muhammad Ali) and "the pit and the pendulum" (referencing Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum)
- "Fight The Power" was used on the soundtrack of Do the Right Thing (1989). Its title is a homage to "Fight the Power" by The Isley Brothers. The songs begins with a 1967 vocal sample of civil rights attorney and activist Thomas "TNT" Todd:Yet our best trained, best educated, best equipped, best prepared troops refuse to fight. Matter of fact, it's safe to say that they would rather "switch than fight"
- "Fight The Power" has Chuck D. quote "the sound of the funky drummer" and "I'm black and I'm proud" (referencing James Brown's "Funky Drummer" and "Say it Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud")
- In "Burn Hollywood Burn", which is a Take That! towards racist Hollywood movies. The line "so step and fetch this shit" is a reference to actor Stepin Fetchit, who played a Lazy Bum black stereotype in a lot of old 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".
- The line "America eats its young" in "Revolutionary Generation" is a reference to Funkadelic's America Eats Its Young. The line "R-E-S-P-E-C-T my sisters" is a shout-out to Aretha Franklin's "Respect".
- "Power To The People" namedrops "We Shall Overcome" by Pete Seeger.
- "Who Stole The Soul?" references Wilson Pickett, James Brown and Redd Foxx and the nursery rhyme "Jack was nimble, Jack was quick".
- Porcupine Tree's 2007 album "Fear Of A Blank Planet" provides a shout-out to this album.
- "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" references Jimi Hendrix' song "Third Stone From The Sun" from Are You Experienced.
- Singer Name Drop: "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man" announces "Flavor Flav got problems of his own."
- Special Guest: "Burn Hollywood Burn" has guest appearances by Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis performs on "Fight the Power".
- STD Immunity: Averted in the brief but Aesop-laced "Meet Tha G That Killed Me".
- Stock Sound Effects: "Incident at 66.6 FM" has clips of an interview with Public Enemy with Alan Colmes.
- Take That!:
- "911 Is A Joke" criticizes the inadequacy of "9-1-1".
- "Burn Hollywood Burn" attacks the use of black stereotypes in movies, targeting Blackface and Uncle Tomfoolery. In particular, Driving Miss Daisy (which beat out Do the Right Thing, the film "Fight the Power" was written for, at the Oscars) is criticized as a "bullshit" movie.
- "Whole Stole the Soul" condemns the record industry for exploiting black recording artists throughout the ages.
- "Fight The Power" addresses the notion that Elvis owed his success to Afro-American predecessors and John Wayne's racist remarks in a 1971 Playboy interview. note Chuck D. acknowledged this his diss has less to do with Elvis personally and more with the white culture hailing Presley as the "king", without acknowledging the black artists that came before him, something Presley himself lamented. note
- "Fight The Power" also targets Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy".Don't worry be happy
Was a number one jam
Damn if I say it you can slap me right here
- Time Marches On:
- "Fight the Power" opens with Chuck D. shouting: "1989!"
- In "Fear Of A Black Planet" he predicts a breakdown in 2001.
- "Power to the People" wishes for "peace in 1991".
- Title-Only Chorus: "Fight The Power"
- Title Track: "Fear Of A Black Planet".
- Where da White Women At?: "Fear Of A Black Planet"Man, I don't want your wife
Stop screamin' it's not the end of your life
(But supposin' she said she loved me)
What's wrong with some color in your family tree?
I don't know.