Posted by: markfender | November 27, 2012

Headphone Diaries – March 26, 1990

I skipped a release last week.

Public Enemy
Fear of a Black Planet

Remember when Public Enemy were controversial? Remember when Flava Flav was a political activist and not a reality TV star?

The thing I remember most about this band was how many white kids were wearing their T-shirts. Which, in retrospect, seems to have missed the point. Not that Chuck D minded the income, but it does seem a little odd. Listening to this again, I think the band works best when Chuck D and Flava Flav are doing their call and response rap. When a song only features one or the other one of them, it loses a little something. For instance, I remember shocking news reports about “911 (Is a Joke).” How dare those black people say harmful things about our services designed to protect them! What no one ever seemed to mention is that it’s a really terrible song. Flava Flav can’t sing and he shouldn’t try. He can barely rap. If it hadn’t been about a controversial issue, it would have disappeared as a bad track on an above-average album. In fact, it’s barely a song. It’s more like one of those stupid skits that rap stars like to put on their albums.

Did it age well? Hell no. Not only is it horrifically dated politically but it sounds like early 90s rap. And that is not necessarily a good thing.

Should this go on your iPod? Only if you have a need to prove your old school hip hop credentials.

Digital Underground
Sex Packets

And then, the following week, this releases, (You can tell it’s 90s hip hop because of that hat. Wow.) which takes the funk-inspired music of Public Enemy and makes it danceable. Owing a huge debt to Parliament, Digital Underground took hip hop in a more fun-loving direction than the previous week’s angry diatribes.

So, yeah, listening to these back-to-back, it was interesting how alike they actually sounded, something I totally didn’t notice at the time. Musically, Digital Underground is better. But, the subject matter in their songs is pretty stupid (I can’t believe anyone ever thought to record “The Humpty Dance,” nor that other people would like it). Public Enemy didn’t make any bold experiments with their sound the way that Digital Underground did, but their lyrics were far more insightful.

Did it age well? I don’t think anything that involves funk riffs can really age all that well.

Should this go on your iPod? If you put “The Humpty Dance” on your iPod, you hate your iPod.



  1. I’ve found that very little popular music (even if only popular in a narrow genre) ages very well.

  2. I still love The Humpty Dance…

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