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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:51 am 
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Public Enemy has been my favorite rap group for a long time. They've had a big impact on me since I first discovered them in '88. I still listen to them regularly today, too.

I'd been chewing on a piece about them for some time. At first I wanted to talk about their music, but then I shifted to their impact on the way I saw things. It was only meant to be a quick blog post, but it kept growing and growing and growing and growing.

Finally finished it at 2:30am last night. Here is it. How Public Enemy Changed the Way I See the World.

It deals as much with race politics as it does with music, and it largely about a dopey white suburban dude trying to make sense of it all. I think it turned out okay, though.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:10 am 
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Reading through it now, but just throwing this out first... to this day, there are just a few songs I can recite completely from memory, Bring the Noise and Fight The Power are two of them. I listened to them a bazillion times in the late 80's early 90's.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:38 am 
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Really good article, Shoe, the second one that you've written lately that I believe to be truly great.

I think many, if not all, of us here are of a similar mindset as you on these issues. Does that make this a 'safe space'?

My epiphany about race, racism, and differing experiences came well before Public Enemy, but I actually do have a story behind being introduced to them...

In high school, there was a new kid in school. At first seeing him and noticing that he was larger than most our age, he was built like a full grown man at 16, and wearing ripped jeans, ripped safety-pin laden T-shirt, and jet black hair, I immediate thought he was a narc. You have to remember this was the time of 21 Jump Street, and me getting high a lot. I, of course, befriended him, and when we got talking about music, he suggested a group called Public Enemy to me. I never heard of them, but after listening to It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back my respect for him tripled. He is now a bartender in New York, and travels around a lot, partying, and fucking young girls. Basically living the perfect vicarious life.

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In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be "replaced" by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten. - George Lucas 1988


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2016 1:34 pm 
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Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.

I suppose if we're a "safe space," it's mostly happy chance and slow evolution resulting from the people who stuck around all these years.

Interestingly, the guy who pretty much introduced me to Public Enemy, a guy who hung out with all the black military families at the time, as an adult ended up being a closet racist. I remember going to his place for a poker game. Lots of his extended circle of friends were there, people I'd never met. One dude was there with his kid of maybe five or six, and the kid was "nigger this" and "nigger that." Everyone thought it was hilarious, including the guy I'd known for years. I was openly like, 'What the fuck is this shit?'

With alcohol, a bunch of big dudes, and me being a scrawny guy, I ended up having to leave. I'd made it tense by questioning it and the room was turning on me hard. Thought maybe I'd get my ass kicked if I kept talking, so I got out of Dodge.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:27 pm 
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Shoe wrote:
Public Enemy has been my favorite rap group for a long time. They've had a big impact on me since I first discovered them in '88. I still listen to them regularly today, too.

I'd been chewing on a piece about them for some time. At first I wanted to talk about their music, but then I shifted to their impact on the way I saw things. It was only meant to be a quick blog post, but it kept growing and growing and growing and growing.

Finally finished it at 2:30am last night. Here is it. How Public Enemy Changed the Way I See the World.

It deals as much with race politics as it does with music, and it largely about a dopey white suburban dude trying to make sense of it all. I think it turned out okay, though.


When I was in Jersey for the Jeff Mangum show, Public Enemy was one of the headliners at the ATP music fest. I ran into Flava Flav and said "What's up!?" and he ignored me.

I also went to their set and walked out after two songs. I think they were performing their album "New World Order." I could be mistaken because I don't know much of anything about this band. That is my experience with Public Enemy. I thought I'd share.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:03 pm 
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Shoe wrote:
With alcohol, a bunch of big dudes, and me being a scrawny guy, I ended up having to leave. I'd made it tense by questioning it and the room was turning on me hard. Thought maybe I'd get my ass kicked if I kept talking, so I got out of Dodge.


Great article!

Very similar batch of experiences while in college in the south. I grew up there and it's something that if you're raised like I was, you have to confront or exit quickly. I have a very close friend who is black who lived with our family for a few years while in college. I left for California while he was still in school. One of the weirdest things for me was that I would come back to visit and he would greet me with a huge "My nigga!" and a hug. I know it was meant with a world of love but it made me feel so awkward because I'd been taught to never ever call someone that.

Also, while tailgating overnight for a football game a few guys who had crashed our camp started with the n-word bullshit. I was visiting from Cali so they didn't know me at all. I was going to leave even though I'd come all the way back to Georgia for the tailgating as much as the game, but my best friend went to the most offensive one and told him my wife was black (she's not). I didn't know he did this. I just knew that all of a sudden, that shit stopped and pretty soon they left. The moral is, assholes like that know their behavior is unacceptable and are generally embarrassed when they realize they're not in their own "safe space".

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 8:38 am 
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Hey Shoe - Do you read AVClub.com at all? They have a series on there called Power Hour where a writer creates a playlist that "distills" the essence of a band.

They tackled Public Enemy earlier this year.

I've been a fan of the series for a while and generally will recreate their playlist on my iPod to give it a listen even if I don't always agree with their picks. They do strive to make it more than just a "greatest hits" list which I like. I thought this one was very good although with only an hour and a catalog as good as PE's, some cuts I like got the axe.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 2:47 pm 
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caryc wrote:
The moral is, assholes like that know their behavior is unacceptable and are generally embarrassed when they realize they're not in their own "safe space".


This was certainly true in 2015. I'm not sure it is in 2016.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 3:46 pm 
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caryc wrote:

Rad. I do check out A/V Club from time to time, but wasn't familiar with this series. Cool idea. Eager to check it out.
Eric wrote:
This was certainly true in 2015. I'm not sure it is in 2016.

I wish you were wrong.

I think one of the interesting things about Public Enemy, or at least my experience of them, is that they kind of forced me to confront the idea that criticism of a system designed to protect whites over blacks isn't criticism of whites, it's criticism of the system, and acknowledging systemic racism isn't an attack on white people, it's an attack on the system.

I know folks who now call Obama "the most racist president in history," exact quote, because he has publicly acknowledged that systemic racism is real and still needs to be addressed.

That's stupid.

At the same time, I guess it's a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to being confronted with those realities. Your instinct is to be like, "What the fuck did I do? Fuck you, I never discriminated against you!"

Not saying it's right -- it's not, it's an emotional and unthinking way to react -- but I suspect that's at the root of some (but only some) of that backlash, similar to how as a teen I initially wondered if Public Enemy disliked whites. It was unsettling to hear that message so forcefully and clearly.

Ultimately, unsettling in a good way.

Hearing it from the president? That flipped people the hell out!

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:31 pm 
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And hearing endorsement of racism and bigotry from a Presidential candidate, then having him win, definitely flipped different people out.


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