Release Date: Nov 6, 2012
Record label: Enemy
Genre(s): Rap, East Coast Rap, Political Rap
"The youth is not youth for long/Rest in peace, Trayvon," declares Chuck D on PE's second 2012 LP, following Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp. A predictably righteous volley of rhyme grenades on race and pop-culture politics, tinged with grumpy nostalgia, it's startlingly potent. Grooves clobber, facts sucker-punch; and Flavor Flav lights up "31 Flavors" like a Christmas tree, riding a hot go-go groove.
Arriving just a few months after Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp, Public Enemy's The Evil Empire of Everything is a decidedly different album than their other 2012 album. It's leaner and harder, stripped down to its hard, unbreakable basics, Public Enemy honing their politics and music so Evil Empire of Everything has a precise, steely glint. There is no hiding Chuck D's anger at the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, not when the album opens with 911 calls where black teenagers are held under suspicion for the color of their skin, and not when there's a centerpiece called "Beyond Trayvon," but for as hard as these songs hit, what's striking about Evil Empire of Everything is its music.
Celebrating 25 years together by dropping their second album since summer, hip-hop game changers Public Enemy take a reflective step back on their latest record. If July’s Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp blazes like a classic PE take-to-the-streets protest rally, then the best of The Evil Empire of Everything simmers like the frank dinner table conversation afterwards—a dialogue that white America rarely gets to hear and one that gets cut tragically short on this record. Chuck D has long been a vocal critic on race issues, corporate America, and the state of modern hip-hop, but rarely have Public Enemy grounded their music in a moment as universally known and incendiary across color lines as the Trayvon Martin shooting.
There are a few constants in hip-hop: Nobody beats the Biz, women will always love Cool J, and Chuck D is always going to be angry about something. A quarter century after the group’s debut, the righteous political fury that fueled Public Enemy’s seminal late-’80s albums still burns bright, with ample targets (Mitt Romney, Jay-Z, and Kanye West among them) to be lined up in PE’s proverbial crosshairs. And while it’s naive to think PE will ever have the same impact it did back then, there’s still too many strong moments on “Evil Empire” to dismiss it.