Our guest writer is back with an ode to Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet.
Words by Craig M. Riding
As the Eighties came to an end, a new musical revolution came belatedly into my life, the first digital age. My parents had upgraded their hi-fi set up and I acquired a CD player. I knew this was on the cards as I had been having negotiations for a few weeks and on its release in the late spring of 1990 I purchased my first CD, a few weeks before owning an actual player.
The album was Fear of a Black Planet and I had been waiting for it drop since buying my first 12 (I used buy albums and tapes, our kid was the 12″ buyer). That 12″ was Welcome to the Terror-dome, one of the greatest Hip Hop tracks of all time, it was like being hit around the head with a brick. A pure barrage of sound and anger. The bomb squad as it had become known had perfected the multi layered sample sound of the previous albums and added another layer on top again. The Temptations Psychedelic Shack ringing around and spurring on Chuck D’s lyrics of frustration and anger at the media hounding of the group. Chuck D sounded like a man on the edge, Hip Hop hadn’t sounded so emotive or personal.
I bought the next single, 911 is a Joke the same day I bought the CD, and it gave me another fix while I waited to get my CD player. I was more interested in Revolutionary Generation, and loved the instrumental of that track. 911 is a Joke didn’t really match the power of Terror-dome, coming across as a drunken singalong, albeit with a message. Still it didn’t sink my enthusiasm for the album, I had heard a few tracks on the radio and was eager to listen, I had already read through the lyrics in the booklet and had was processing them when finally I could listen to the whole album.
The intro track still gives me chills, and the album just flows. Here is the first Hip Hop album of the CD era. I realise there is an obvious break in the middle, and that the statement is a little through personal reasons, but Fear of a Black Planet was to me the first Hip Hop concept album. Nations, as much of a classic as it is, was a collection of great tracks. Fear had more of flow between songs, it kept up the political vitriol and pushed it further, but also had a lot more personal points in the album. If Nations was Public Enemy’s What’s Going On? (as stated by the group), then here was their Here My Dear! Aimed squarely at the media, the government and the ever growing pop culture.
People look at me in a strange way when I tell them that Fear of a Black Planet is my favourite PE album, and it may be due to personal reasons. Music though is always personal and none so more than this album.