Public Enemy - Power To The People And The Beats

Alex Worsnip 08/08/2005

Rating: 4/5

It may seem hard to believe now that once upon a time mainstream hip-hop could be socially revolutionary, so this collection of the best known works of Public Enemy is timely, and provides an excellent introduction for those that were too young (or just missed them) the first time around, like myself. The political lyrics, combined with the reasonably organic sound, blending live guitar and bass hooks with scratching, will always be appealing to those indie kids that listen to hip-hop only selectively, but the sound is credible and hasn't dated too badly - old-skool without a doubt, but still fresh. Inevitably, the best material comes from 'It Takes A Nation of Millions...' and 'Fear Of A Black Planet', their two essential works in that order, with classic tracks like 'Rebel Without A Pause', 'Fight The Power' and 'Don't Believe The Hype', but early tracks like 'You're Gonna Get Yours' and later ones like the smouldering 'Give It Up' stand up well next to them, despite the quality dropping off a bit with the more slick and modernised 'He Got Game', off the soundtrack for the Spike Lee film. Best of all, though, is the paranoia-embodying 'Black Steel' (also, out of interest, covered excellently by Tricky). Inevitably, this packaged collection with radio edits and even some censored lyrics somewhat blunts the original intensity and spirit, as it seems commercialised, but it provides a superb and well-selected introduction, and so, for what it is, can't really be faulted.