The Public Enemy -Undisputed Kings of Hip-Hop

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public enemy the undisputed kings of hip-hop tony lakey rivers zani 1

Brothers and sisters, I don't know what this world is coming to.  It might just be a sign of getting old, but I can't abide listening to Radio 1 anymore.  I try and stay as 'hip' as I can, so along with the thirty-somethings favourites of Radio 2 and 6 music, I still can't resist to hear what's happening on 1.  Apart from that Tory droning tosser Jeremy Clarkson,

are there a more pretentious set of media voices than some of the Radio 1 collective?  Bring back Tony Blackburn, Stewpot Stewart and Peter Powell I say, with their 'charidy' work for fuck sake-all is forgiven. Now that was what I called Radio.  I don't mind Jo Wiley or Zane Lowe but due to either work or sleep I rarely get a chance to enjoy either show.  Everytime I'm driving the car lately and I accidentally flick to the Scott Mills show, I suddenly morph into 'Mr Angry', a character from the Steve Wright in the Afternoon show, circa 1984, and then usually indulge myself in a spot of low-grade hyper-ventilating road rage (and calm 1,2,3...and find a happy place 1,2,3 and reeelax). He's a condescending prick that one.

 
And don't get me started on 'Chappers' his sycophantic nouveau 'soccer fan' massaging Scott Mills' already Chris Moyles arse-sized ego.  And whilst on the subject of' Moylesy - the self obsessed so called saviour of Radio 1, please tell me how he gets paid so much for talking so much shit? Lordy lord, no wonder the country is fucked.  Not even worthy of lacing Danny Baker's Doc Martins in my most humble opinion.  Turn the dial to Chris Evans' drivetime and breathe again, ahhh....And what in the wide wide world of sports has happened to music?  Especially British acts.  In a universe governed by Herr Simon Cowells' new world shite order, I see the music purists among you are scratching your swedes wondering where did it all go wrong.  Forgive the over-cynicism, it comes with age and the internet..
 
It's an easy target I suppose but could someone explain to me what the score is with British Hip-Hop, especially the recent influx of mainstream rap, said flagship Radio station continually champion.  It gives me a bloomin headache. White men can't jump? Try British blokes can't rap.  Ironik?  Tynchey Stryder?  N Dubz?!  What the fuck mun. And the icing on the piece-de-resistence. Dizzee Rascal winning the Best British male artist gong! He's no Derek B, Betty Boo or Rebel MC that one. It's all weird sounding 'kidulthood' type, on the corner of a Barking Road estate, colloqualised tooth-sucking drivel. But he does have a blinding Moncler puffa, which he scored points for on my Facebook recently .Compared to its Stateside counterparts, Jay Z, Kanye West, Pharrell et al, there is no comparison. What's next?  Pam Ayres to get a Brits lifetime achievement award for services to rap. (attempts poor Ayres imitation-"There was an old man from Nantucket" etc.  Now there's an idea. Calvin Harris featuring Pam Ayres. I think I'd actually buy that  .The only cockney voice distinguishable in my head whilst listening to most of this is Catherine Tates'  gran, moaning,  "Whadda loada shit"...

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I first got into the majesty of Hip-Hop around 1984-85. A few young and bored friends forged part of a local Breakdancing 'motley' crew. We were on the whole, rubbish, but even though our dancing was of an abysmal standard, the new tunes we were getting introduced to, like the Electro compilations, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Doug E Fresh etc were inspirational. I don't think we cared that much about the dancing, although we entered plenty of tournaments, official ones and the occasional 'burn-outs' outside the clinic in Aberdare or at the Bandstand in Ponty Park against local nutters.  It was already exciting enough dressing at thirteen years old in that B-boy trendy/football casual crossover and listening to some amazing U.S. music. Add the Graffiti sub-culture into the equation and as Henry Hill once said, these truly were"Glorious Times".
 
We grew out of Breakdancing not long after we realised we were cack, but early in 1987 I found my musical Gods. I remember several of us gathered round in Geraints' living room to watch Tim Westwoods' now seminal documentary on BBC's Def Two, called "Bad Meaning Good". Several minutes in, there was a shot of a Grafitti tagged-up tube on the London Underground, with a background soundtrack of a track I'd never heard before.  I looked around the room, asking "What the fuck was that tune, did you hear tha"????. It wasn't long before I found out.  It was the incredible 'Rebel without a Pause' by Public Enemy. I must have been 14 going on 15 when I first heard it, and not many tracks, if any, have had such an impact on my musical tastes before or since. It was part of the groundbreaking second album of theirs' entitled, 'It takes a nation of millions to hold us back' which I was desperate to own soon after.
 
To this day it's still my favourite ever album. Absolute unsurpassed quality. You see, at that time, the Stock, Aitken and Waterman factory sound was everywhere, with their nice, twee, safely marketed acts like Rick Astley, Kylie and Jason, with lyrics from Erinsboroughs' favourite son like 'With Love to guide us, Nothing can divide us'(!) whilst Public Enemy were telling us to follow Louis Farakhan's Nation of Islam and scaring people with their lyrics so shocking that had people, I quote, 'pissing in their pants'!. You couldn't get sounds more opposite at the time. Thank fuck. I didn't have a clue what they were rapping about for years, and found it easier to answer one of Ted Rogers clues on 3,2,1 than it was to decifer the lyrics on a Public Enemy record....but I couldn't careless.They were the finest tracks I'd ever heard. I was too young to have appreciated the Punk explosion, but this new sound was Hip-Hop Punk...and then some, and we were part of it. These politically motivated black men from Long Island, New York were head and shoulders above anything I'd heard before. They brought the noize and everything made it unique from Chuck D's born to rap booming voice, his right hand man Flava Flavs' awesome style was the perfect foil for Hip-Hops answer to Batman & Robin, Newman & Redford or Stant & Dale..and the background beats, loops, mixing and scratching from Terminator X were hairs on the back of your neck standing quality....They were never going to win many awards and were never going to be part of any cunning mass marketing campaign to rip off customers and join the mainstream. The chances are, you won't hear a Public Enemy £2.50 a time ringtone on the annoying geek next to you messing with their phone. They were too controversial to be universally popular. God bless 'em

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Other Hip-hop legends Run Dmc and soon to be revered The Beastie Boys were touring the UK in 1987. I was too young to attend any of these gigs- although I tried desperately to get to the Newport Centre nights . Firstly for the aforementioned then later on when Public Enemy supported LL Cool J. I had to make do with a couple of T-shirts instead. The Together forever tour and the  'Beasties penis is coming' T shirt were particular favourites at the time. It was sometime before I got to see a Public Enemy gig, but it would be worth the wait. One of my friends, Leon, got to see them in Brixton on the Def-Jam tour. Lucky get..
 
The famous Wag club in London were the first to host acts like the Beastie Boys, Afrika Bambaataa and LL Cool J.   Merthyrs' very own musician turned promoter Chris Sullivan had his finger on the pulse when it came to showcasing the coolest acts around. They must have been some unforgettable times.
 
 It was a couple of years before the Madchester/Indie scene with the offshoot of House music white-dovetailed nicely side by side and became the focus of my attentions, but in 1987 I was already experimenting with mind-altering designer labels. Chipie Dungerees, C-17 patched jeans, Part Two check (the French look was definitely en-vogue at that time), I-Claudius flowery patchwork shirts, Fiorucci sweatshirts with rubber faces dangling from your chest, pink Adidas jean and multi-coloured Kickers. Not worn at once I hasten to add!  A very colourful era. The dyed in the wool B-boy had their own look which wasn't a million miles away from the football dresser. The late 70s-80s love for the finer German training shoes is still relevant today, and that all important question remains, what came first? the Stan Smiths on Scotty Road or the Puma States on the Pelham Parkway, Bronx. But that's another story..

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A short while after, a nightclub in Merthyr called 'Charbonniers' was the nearest place we could get our fix of Hip-Hop. Local DJ Jeff Thomas packed the place out. Doug Lazy, NWA, The Sugar Bears and Chad Jacksons 'Hear the drummer get wicked' (one of many popular tunes sampled from Public Enemy) were just a few of the quality 'joints' that got the South Walian B-boys rocking on those memorable Thursdays in Merthyr. Lots of excited teenagers learning the 'Running man' dance for the first time. Quite a sight.  In the mid nineties I again missed Public Enemy. They appeared at the Reading Festival.  I'd been there a few times but something stopped me from going again.  I recall Ted saying it was the best gig he'd ever seen. This coming from a man who had seen everyone worth seeing twice over. His music knowledge is second to none.
 
Finally, they announced a comeback tour, early noughties, and Bristol Academy it was. A couple of carloads of slightly overweight, ageing Old skool B-boys headed across the Severn Bridge behind enemy lines. Wurzel land. With the anglo-welsh rivalry still at a peak, travelling to Bristol for a gig could have been fraught with danger, as concerts were always a breeding ground for a bit of the old "Ultra violence" - Malcolm McDowell, so the adreniline was pumping overtime, and not just because we were going to witness the greatest band the world had ever seen.

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My car at the time was an extremely un-Hip-Hop-esque Vauxhall Astra. Although just like Chuck D's it was a 98, it wasn't booming with a trunk of funk....but it did have quite a nice CD player instead...The gig passed hooligan free as the melting pot of a multi cultural west country audience lapped up every world class tune, from Don't believe the hype, Welcome to the Terrordome and Black steel in the hour of chaos. We bumped into faces we knew. Ecer, one of Cardiff's coolest dressers from back in the day, who also enjoyed the B-boy scene. His graffiti tags can still be seen if you're ever on the Aberdare to Cardiff Valleyline sprinter route!  I had finally achieved it. I saw PE live. As we strolled back to my car happy chappies, the mood changed.
 
"Where's the fucking car"?  It was gone. We found out that it hadn't been nicked, but had been taken away by some unscrupulous, dodgy wurzels, possibly organised-crime connected tow trucking twats. How dare they touch the Astra! We had to hang around for hours before the office opened, overlooking the compound where what seemed like, hundreds of cars had been towed through the night. There was I, cold, tired, waiting in the queue to try and stop myself screaming at some sad, jobsworth wurzel who had nothing but bad news for me. You know the situation, when you start fantasizing about having a gun and being able to 'whack' people you hate, without fear of any legal reprisals. This was one of those times. In all my anger I hadn't noticed that Hopkins, Rory or Leon had taken my keys, and just before I got to speak to the bureau-twat, I could hear a screeching of tyres, then Hopkins shouting
 
"Lakey, get in the fucking car"!!
 
They had opened the gates and driven the Astra (with fine CD player still intact) out of the compound.  I ran to the car and jumped in like a slightly chunkier Bo Duke.  We sped off outta Dodge and into the Bristolian sunrise, flashing the vics behind us, laughing out loud in a 'little finger to corner of mouth Dr Evil' type way, mwahahaha. We were The Professionals, We were The Sweeney, We were Valley-Rebels without a pause for thought....But with a car! "So-long suckers"!!
 
Later on that day, I was awoken with a sore head by a phone call from the Avon and Somerset  police telling me that the car I owned, which I already paid ridiculous amounts of tax for, was now in fact, a stolen car, and the crowning glory, unless I coughed up 150 quid to the compound cxnts, I would be arrested. Fair play for the boys, we all chipped in and begrudgingly sent the money off. Around a year later we found out that the City of Bristol had to hand back large amounts of unlawful fines from the very same unscrupulous towing firms! The 150 notes was returned to the very happy B-Boyos. Public Enemys' famous words taught us well. You may not beat them at first, but make sure you keep 'Fighting that power...;-)


Public Enemy 2010. Peace

© Words – Tony Rivers/ZANI

Tony Rivers, co author of the best selling football book, Soul Crew. Available online and in all good book stores
 
Read 1813 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:50

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