Public Enemy – “What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?” review

Public Enemy is an iconic political hip hop outfit from Long Island, New York lead by Chuck D. Their first 5 albums are hip hop essentials as what Chuck & company were saying on all of them are still very much relevant today. They ended up leaving Def Jam Recordings in ‘98 after releasing the He Got Game soundtrack, but have put out a total of 10 albums independently. But with everything that’s happened in 2020, the group has seen fit to return to Def Jam for their 16th full-length album.

After the George Clinton intro, the first song “Grid” with Cypress Hill finds the 2 groups talking about the current digital age over a funky instrumental from my homie C-Doc while the track “State of the Union (STFU)” takes a jab at Donald Trump over a hypnotic boom bap beat from DJ Premier. After the “Merica Mirror” interlude, the song “Public Enemy Number Won” with the Beastie Boys & Run-D.M.C. is a modern version of “Public Enemy #1” off their 1987 debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show down to the Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s sample while the track “Toxic” continues to take aim at Trump over an doomsday-sounding beat.

The song “Yesterday Man” with Daddy-O ponders what happened to hip hop over a rap-rock instrumental & after the “Crossroads Burning” interlude, the following track is a star-studded sequel to one of PE’s most iconic joints: “Fight the Power”. The song “Beat ‘Em All” talks about being ready to fight over a dusty instrumental while the track “Smash the Crowd” with Ice-T & PMD discusses how great they are over a dynamic beat.

The track “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em Join ‘Em” is a noisy & repetitive interlude while the song “Go at Me” with Jahi talks about revolution over a beat with some more rock influences to it. The track “Rest In Beats” with The Impossebulls pays tribute to all the hip hop legends we’ve lost over a forlorn beat co-produced by Easy Mo Bee. Then before finishing with the “I’m Black” outro, the closer R.I.P. Blackat” is a Flavor Flav solo cut paying tribute to Clyde Bazile Jr. with a melancholic instrumental.

If anyone asks me, this is Public Enemy’s best effort in a while. The lyrical content is as stronger & thought-provoking than ever before, but what makes this stand out more than a handful of their output in the past 21 years is that it’s a lot more well-produced. However, I don’t get why 6 songs on here from the group’s previous album Nothing’s Quick in the Desert reappear on here. Nonetheless, definitely worth checking out for the current times.

Score: 3.5/5

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