Public Enemy stormed onto the Hip Hop scene in the late 1980s and is now one of the foundational groups of the culture. Their sophomore output, 1988’s It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, has been called “the greatest Hip Hop album ever,” but the New York crew’s journey started with 1987’s Yo! Bum Rush the Show, which celebrated its 30th anniversary yesterday (February 10).
Speaking with Unique Access Entertainment, AMG breaks down why the album is so special.
“They had just that crazy, crazy sound combined with what Chuck was saying and it just had me stuck,” he says about Public Enemy’s debut project.
Yo! Bum Rush the Show was the world’s introduction to a cast of characters that was Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X and Professor Griff. In a time when social media wasn’t even a thought, fans had to learn about the members through other means. AMG recalls meeting the group at a show in Los Angeles and wanting to compliment Chuck D on his powerful rhymes.
“I walked up to Terminator X, was talking to him like, ‘Man, what you said,’” he recalls. “He’s like, ‘I’m not Chuck D.’ I’m looking at the biggest dude going like this gotta be the guy. He’s got the big voice. He’s like, ‘That’s Chuck D.’ I’m like, ‘The little dude right there?’”
Yes, the little dude right there was Chuck D, who has become iconic in his own way as the group challenged and empowered audiences with songs like “Rightstarter (Message To A Black Man).”
“It made you go pick up some books and understand what they weren’t teaching you in school,” AMG says of the track. “There’s a lot more to you than just what you thought, especially if you didn’t have that education.”
He emphasizes the influence of Chuck D’s flow on the album. The gold-certified rapper spits a few lines of “Timebomb” as he explains how he crafted his own sound growing up listening to Public Enemy.
“That’s when I was kind of developing my style,” he says. “I didn’t even have an idea of what I was going to do or if I was ever going to do music. I was just a kid trying to rap. But his voice, I wanted a commanding voice. It wasn’t deep, but it was gonna be big and bold like Chuck D’s was.”
Other standout tracks include “You’re gonna Get Yours” and “Public Enemy No.1,” which AMG says “sounded like the best shit I ever heard in my life.”
Besides the fierce political content, he applauds the album for its production. AMG, who’s worked extensively (and beefed) with DJ Quik, says that the Bomb Squad created a “beautiful collage” with its production work and all of the elements woven into the LP.
“The pictures they painted, they still hold true today,” he says.
Perhaps the greatest reason this album is one to remember is because it gave birth to a whole new genre of rap. AMG says that Yo! Bum Rush the Show‘s impact was felt across the country and Public Enemy’s work was just the foundation for an entire generation of the culture.
“It built what we call West Coast Hip Hop,” he says. “I know N.W.A, that’s one of their major influences as far as making records. That was the only record out that was killing it at the time. That was something to beat. Even though it wasn’t a grand commercial success, those are the best things, like cult movies. They had a cult following, which turned into massive success after popularity came. But records like that, you’re not going to get again, not at all.”