Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Album Review: Public Enemy - Nothing Is Quick In The Desert

Public Enemy
Nothing Is Quick In The Desert (Except Death)
***and1/2 out of *****
There has been a lot of what the public calls "Dad Hip-Hop" coming out lately and while some of it is from artists re-establishing themselves or trying to turn back the clock, Public Enemy who have nothing left to prove, decided to drop a free album on the 4th of July for their fans to celebrate 30 years in the business.

The business is very much on Chuck D's mind as he stated in regards to the title:
"It looks dead like a desert. But there's plenty of life in the desert when one is educated on what they see and hear. There, a cactus absorbs and stores water deep in its root, taken from the air itself and certain creatures thrive in that dry heat whereas the average cannot. It pays to be above average (or well below it) in the desert for survival. The music industry is similar in that analogy. It's still in motion, it just needs redefinition."
So the free offer may be more than a PR Stunt as the group struggles to reach an audience, RtBE are fans of PE and even we didn't know they dropped albums in 2015 and 2012. Whatever the means of getting the disk out, the group seems inspired, crafting an album that bangs, rocking hard while dealing with social issues and culture in general.

The most impressive thing about the groups 14th studio album is that it is just that, a full album. Sequenced and performed/produced to flow directly from one track into the other it's seamless playing works wonderfully from the first track. Ever since the beginning Chuck D wanted to be the activist Mick Jagger fronting a rock band and in recent years PE has gone almost all live (with the excellent DJ Lord) while performing with multiple guitars and drummers. For Chuck and company this makes perfect sense after their recent jaunt into Prophets of Rage.

That musicality is instantly evident as guitars and beats mix with drum breaks and bass drops. "sPEak" is a call to action after a slow title track sets the scene and "Yesterday Man" calls out to many of today's culture touchstones Kanye and Klan included. From these openers to the old school "Rest In Beats Parts 1 & 2" the albums excellent closing in memoriam track that calls out all the lost artists, the group is locked in and loaded for big game.

While other older MC's (Big Boi in particular) sound just as fresh vocally as they did years ago, Chuck D does not. There is clear age in his delivery however, his voice was never his strongest attribute, it was what he was saying and that stays the same as he calls out a long list of issues he wants to deal with. The guests also help out the vocal sound, as everyone from Ice-T, PMD, Easy Mo Bee, Sammy Vegas and Solé show up to add some unique vocal styling behind the SW1/Bomb Squad assault rifle sound.

The whole album should be listened to but there are a few standout tracks that elevate the concept album (Chuck mentioned Paul's Boutique and Death Certificate as inspirations). "Smash The Crowd" is a aggressive party-is-over jam that bobs and weaves with metal guitar, a perfect song for Body Count front man Ice-T to help out on while perhaps the disk highlight is "SOC MED Digital Heroin". Guests galore bring the sound of PE into the now and deals with a digital culture in a funky as fuck way, tons of samples, riffs and beats color the background while MC's shake their damn head at internet/social media woes leading to inaction.

There are some stumbles, "Toxic" has lines that feel forced while "If You Can't Beat Em Join Em" drags in the middle but on the whole this is an unexpectedly rock solid album from the Hip-Hop Heroes and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Never count legends out...
Color RtBE surprised, as we listened to a lot of hip-hop this month, and if you would have told us the newest Public Enemy was going to be our favorite we would have laughed. This is a really good disk that deserves to be heard.

Support the band, buy the album, peep some video:

No comments:

Post a Comment