August 19, 2015 Public Enemy – Man Plans God Laughs (Album Review)
Formed on Long Island, New York in 1982, legendary group Public Enemy became one of the godfathers of social commentary Hip Hop. Containing lyrics that addressed political, media, social, as well as culture issues, the group made a huge impact on the music industry and influenced many other artist of the time and later. Over three decades later, the members of Public Enemy are still kicking and letting their opinions be heard as they keep a tight hold on international dominance in the genre.
Born when William Jonathan Drayton Jr. and Carlton Douglas Ridenhour practiced their MC skills as furniture deliverers, calling themselves Flavor Flav and Chuck D with fellow group Spectrum City, along with a lineup of Hank and Keith Shocklee, as well as Eric “Vietnam” Sadler. Independently, Chuck D released an A and B side record, Check Out the Radio/Lies with Flav, and it was their first foray into social commentary. Interestingly, the name Public Enemy came from a tape, Public Enemy #1, Chuck D made to play at WBAU, the radio station he worked at. He was trying to squash a battle with another local MC and haters of the scene. Eventually, the track got to the ears of then newcomer producer, Rick Rubin.
With Spectrum City as part of the group and as producers, Chuck D and Flav called themselves The Bomb Squad. Spectrum City collaborator, Professor Griff and travelling DJ, Terminator X soon joined the group, and Public Enemy was on the map being a supporting act for The Beastie Boys’ License to Ill tour in 1987. Off the heels of the tour, Public Enemy dropped Yo! Bum Rush the Show as their debut album, and as a result, were quickly rising to the top of the Hip Hop world. Three more albums released in quick succession, the last, 1990’s Fear of a Black Planet, made it into the Library of Congress in 2005. This heralded the Golden Age of Hip Hop, and Public Enemy became legends. Nine more studio albums, two live albums, four compilation albums, four video albums, a soundtrack, two remix albums, countless singles, and a couple of lineup changes, three decades later, Public Enemy is Chuck D, Flavor Flav, DJ Lord, Khari Wynn, The S1W (Security of the First World), and Professor Griff.
The lyrical warriors are back in 2015 with their thirteenth studio album, Man Plans God Laughs, released July 16th. This new offering comes three years after The Evil Empire of Everything, and it is an eleven-track album produced by longtime Producer Gary G-Wiz and Carl Ryder (Chuck D) on Spitdigital. Beginning the album is “No Sympathy from the Devil,” which features longtime friend, member, and writing collaborator, James Bomb, in the chorus. This track has an urgency Public Enemy is known for with an easy, laid back beat as the guys talk about racism. Next, “Me To We” features extra VOX by Cassandra “Half Pint” Jackson of Son of Bazerk. Professor Griff takes over the mic in this track that begins with an intro for Public Enemy as the funky beat kicks in this track of the unity of the Public Enemy posse, evident from the lyrics, “We all relatives/ human family.” The album’s title track, “Man Plans, God Laughs,” again features Half Pint and has an Electronica feel accompanied with the smooth beat as Griff spits lyrics of working against God, and that we have to work hand-in-hand for the kids.The anthemic “Give Peace a Damn” begins with a pessimistic dad just telling his kid he is going to grow up and die for a bedtime story as the hard beat kicks in as Public Enemy calls for giving peace a chance vocalizing, “What good is my hood/When God Say it’s no good?/It’s no good when it’s no God/
A Bluesy, Honky-Tonk, bar music track starts “Honky Talk Rules,” which was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and sung by Sheila Brody (stage name Amuka) with accompanying guitar by Eric Brown. Chuck and Flav tag team the mic in this tongue-in-cheek; yet, serious look at how one race’s status can hold another down. Terminator X brings in “Those Who Know, Know Who” with some tight turntable work followed by a futuristic beat as Chuck throws down lyrics about the media and politicians in cahoots as conveyed with the words, “Flipping that news got the people confused…Got a first and middle and an unknown name/signed the dotted line/charged your name…” Pride in roots and stand up to the ongoing struggle is the theme of “Mine Again,” and again features James Bomb with its simple, yet multi-layered beat as if going back to basics, the Mother Land, stating,“Ain’t never too late/to go back and give back…My soul intention/to save my soul brothers and sisters…/how we became boy instead of mister/I came too far here to be called a Nigger.”
Sliding into “Lost in Space Music,” a funkified beat accompanies Chuck and Flav’s lyrics of the “here one minute, gone the next” of fame and relevance as the “Gospel according to the Labels and Media.” Chuck deftly jabs, “New releases/label ceases/to release it…People say steal it/I’m a realist/Damn/pass the cam.” An old friend, Jahi, makes a cameo in this track. Flav, imitating a slave singing the Blues, begins “Corplantationopoly.” The beat kicks in with Griff going after slavery in corporate America and using people as game pieces.
“Earthizen,” another track to feature Sheila Brody, is another anthemic track of unity that covers the alphabet with a throwback beat as Chuck raps, “The earth without art is just, eh.” As W rolls around, they state,”We instead of me the narrative,” ending in a definitive scratch from DJ Lord. Closing out Man Plans God Laughs is “Praise the Loud,” an ode to the almighty scratch with DJ Lord at the helm.
Some people say thirteen is an unlucky number. Not for Public Enemy. With catchy, innovative beats and def lyric delivery, Man Plans God Laughs brings the social commentary straight in as well as tongue-in-cheek, bringing the ongoing plight and the hypocrisies of a people, of the corporate arena and media, and the world at large as only Public Enemy’s educated eye and rhyme can. Public Enemy will be touring in support of Man Plans God Laughs overseas November through December. CrypticRock gives Man Plans God Laughs 5 of 5 stars.