Release Date: Jun 30, 2017
Record label: Self-released
Thirty years. That's ancient speak for a lot of fans whose first introduction to Hip Hop could have been anywhere between Mike Jones' (who?) "Still Tippin," Lil Wayne's Tha Carter II or anything swag-related. When Public Enemy first dropped Yo! Bum Rush the Show! in 1987 with outstanding production by The Bomb Squad and Rick Rubin, the group immediately distanced themselves from the fray with dynamic songs about politics, the issues plaguing Black America and virtually every other societal ill under the sun.
It's difficult not to read anything into hip-hop legends Public Enemy announcing that their 14th full-length, Nothing Is Quick in the Desert, would drop on the Fourth of July. After all, this is the same group that started their classic '88 cut "Louder Than a Bomb" with a Flavor Flav preamble reminiscent of Frederick Douglass: "Picture us cooling out on the Fourth of July/ And if you heard we were celebrating, that's a worldwide lie. " Even when the album surfaced a few days early for free on Bandcamp, the group's long history pointed more towards springing a rebellion too hot to be left cooling on some hard drive than, as frontman Chuck D indicated, a 30th anniversary gift to fans.
Thirty years ago, when Public Enemy released their debut album, Chuck D was 26 going on eternal, a wise and booming authority from the start. In 2017, he has calloused slightly, sounding like the stodgy teacher who's spent a career stuck at his own alma mater. His voice still booms, but his lesson plans have tightened into a passionately rote routine.
No comebacks allowed, no hiatuses needed. Public Enemy has been cranking out albums with regularity for 30 years, ever since breaking out with the agit-rap masterpieces "Yo! Bum Rush the Show" (1987) and "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back" (1988). Besides breaking the invisible barrier for hip-hop longevity, Public Enemy has remained a vital touring group, notable for the power of its live performances at a time when many of its peers were still figuring out how to take their recordings to the stage.