Saturday, 24 May 2008
Public Enemy @ Brixton Academy last night
Last night I checked out Public Enemy at Brixton Academy. I can't claim to have ever been a proper P.E fan, I am entirely too young, but I am a scholar in many respects so I know my hip-hop history. Public Enemy performing 'It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back' at Brixton Academy is an amazing thing to be happening. You see when Public Enemy first played Brixton Academy back in the 1980s they were supported by The Beastie Boys who were shocking the shit out of British press at the time with talk of penises and naughty things of that nature (these days they don't swear and make jazz fusion records...the British press win) and the gig absolutely went down in hip-hop history the crowd noise was actually used in the interludes during 'It Takes a Nation...'. We know a guy who was at that gig and he talks about it a lot.
So last night was the first time that Public Enemy would be performing 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back' from front to back anywhere in the world so Brixton is pretty excited (plus it's a Friday so Public Enemy fans can probably stay up past midnight or something similarly shocking). I live literally two minutes from the Academy because I'm Brixton like that. So of course I miss the first two support acts; Edan (who I probably would have been interested in seeing) and Anti-Pop Consortium (who I could live without forever I think), I got into the venue after being sent to two windows only to find out I had a V.I.P pass waiting for me at the stage door just in time to catch some guy in a fruity scarf freestyling badly over what appears to be a Canadian DJ in a wrestling mask (how do I know he's Canadian? I just do). After the tedious freestyle session is over Mr Fruity Scarf gets into a song I know. The guy on stage it turns out is hip-hop legend Kool Keith and he's now performing Dr Octagon songs, I'm pretty excited at this point, I'd written him off as a lame just minutes prior, he's not, he's Kool Keith and 'Blue Flowers' kicked the shit. The scarf is still fruity though. Keith throws some magazines into the crowd (I think) and exits stage left.
Next up we have a DJ performance from The Bomb Squad Hank and T Shocklee. The Bomb Squad of course produced the majority of P.E's classic material including 'It Takes a Nation...' so it's an honour to have them on stage. They start with a remix of T-Pain's 'I'm So Hood' and I'm pretty much the only person in the venue who knows what it is, not to worry as for the next hour or so there will be no more choruses, just hard industrial house music and dub-step (I think The Bomb Squad live over here now) "We be at the underground clubs with yall". They outstay there welcome to an extent, some people refuse to accept that the same song appears to have been playing for about 25 minutes out of respect and I respect that. T Shocklee dances around the stage for a few minutes before finally promising us Public Enemy and the Bomb Squad are done.
A giant Public Enemy banner is lowered down the back of the stage that excites glee in the packed arena (it was sold out well in advance). A terrible British accent asks the crowd if they're ready "Then I've got one thing to say to you....YEEEAAAAAHH BBOOOOYYYEEEEE" man that was as exciting as a man's voice can get. Flava Flav and Chuck-D take the stage with the S1Ws who look a little old but they get the job done. For the first time I consider that perhaps Flav looks younger than Chuck? It's possible. The fitness, energy and general rehearsedness of their show is unbelievable. They really don't stop. Professor Griff wasn't allowed out of America for the show and Chuck's pretty pissed. He says something about Minister Farakhan like this is 1994 or there were more than 2% black people in the audience. It's worth mentioning again at this point that I don't know P.E material like that so they're doing songs I've heard but I really don't know them, they're definitely doing them well though. I was disappointed that when doing 'Don't Believe The Hype' there was no effort to perform the horse noise. The hardcore fans wearing tight 'Fight The Power' hats weren't even making that great horse noise. Very poor. Chuck and Flav manage to look as enthusiastic about performing as I think I could possibly have imagined. They dedicate 'Terminator X' to Terminator X of course who retired in 1998 to run an Ostrich farm in North Carolina (does he still run an Ostrich farm?).
What was truly notable about the show was the amount of times I heard samples, lines and hooks that have been reused in contemporary rap records absolutely in reference to Public Enemy that I'd never picked up on before. I feel privileged to have seen the gig last night, Public Enemy are the best stadium rap performers I've ever seen live...they're probably the only stadium rap performers I've seen live but still, they rocked like Metalica who I saw at Leeds Festival a few years back or Iggy Pop who I saw at Reading the year after. That's a good thing.