Now, there have been some bright spots. Digable Planets and De La Soul were on to something new back in their heyday. Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy had a sound that was perhaps more accessible to me at the time, Cypress Hill was very original before they got stuck in their dank, sticky, green mold. I feel obligated to mention the Beastie Boys, but they also seem stuck in a rut after Ill Communication.
One group who seemed to get it right - at least to these ears - was Public Enemy. PE burst out almost fully formed right out of the gate. Aggressive, singularly focused, and driven by near unidentifiable samples, Public Enemy wrote a new map for the future of the genre. The duo of Chuck D and ready made foil, Flavor Flav, were perfect to propel the highly inventive and original beats of the Bomb Squad. It's easy to forget that It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back was released in 1988. I still take that disc for a spin from time to time.
Still, to my original point, not being a fan of rap generally, I think I can be forgiven for not having kept up with their catalog.
As I mentioned before in another post, I've found a lot of music in my life, but occasionally the music will find me. And those are the sweetest tracks.
Late in 2010 I was listening to Henry Rollins' show on KCRW. The second track on that show, as I recall, was "Harder Than You Think." Chuck and Flav have such original voices, it was painfully obvious that this was PE.
I was blown away.
Still am. It's incredibly powerful from the start, but Public Enemy knows what James Brown knew: Repetition can amplify your statement. Alternating between an acoustic guitar and a screaming brass section that sounds like a "Rocky's Theme" outtake, "Harder Than You Think" adds more urgency, and becomes more insistent with every verse.
I measure top shelf music on whether or not it induces chills. This one of those songs.
Somebody, not sure who, coined the phrase "Writing about Music is like dancing about Architecture." I've always liked that. And yet I contribute to a music blog (I know, right? IRONY!).
At any rate, I don't know what else I could say that would add anything else to this track. It must be heard.
Please click the link below to view the video. Would've liked to embed the link here, but there were major label restrictions.
"Harder Than You Think" Public Enemy