Top 10 Public Enemy Songs

Public Enemy Songs

Photo: Kim Metso, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our Top 10 Public Enemy Songs list takes a look at one of hip-hop’s legendary rap groups. They rose to fame in the late 80s. They were known for rapping about political issues. They talked about racism, police brutality and what’s going on in the media. Their first four albums were certified platinum or gold. They were considered one of the most influential groups of all time. Some of their hit singles include “Fight the Power,” “9-1-1 Is a Joke,” “Rebel Without a Pause,” “Night of the Living Baseheads,” “You’re Gonna Get Yours,” “Bring the Noise,” “Shut ‘Em Down,” “Can’t Truss It,” “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.”

Public Enemy were formed in 1985. They went through group changes over the years. The current members are Chuck D, Flavor Flav and DJ Lord. They were the opening act for the Beastie Boys before they released their first album. Public Enemy released their first album Yo! Bum Rush the Show in 1987. The album peaked at number 28 on the r&b and hip-hop charts and 125 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “You’re Gonna Get Yours,” “Public Enemy No. 1,” “Timebomb,” “Too Much Posse” and “Raise the Roof.” The album sold over 500,000 copies.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back was released in 1988. The album peaked at number one on the r&b charts and number 42 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Rebel Without a Pause,” “Bring the Noise,” “Don’t Believe the Hype,” “Night of the Living Baseheads,” “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.” The album went platinum. Fear of a Black Planet came out in 1990. The album peaked at number three on the r&b and hip-hop charts and number 10 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Fight the Power,” “Welcome to the Terrordome,” “9-1-1 Is a Joke,” “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” and “Can’t Do Nuttin’ For Ya Man.” The album sold over one million copies. Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black came out in 1991. It peaked at number one on the r&b charts and number four on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Bring the Noise,” “Can’t Truss It,” “Shut ‘Em Down” and “Nighttrain.” The album sold over one million copies.

Muse Sick – n-Hour Mess Age came out in 1994. The album peaked at number four on the r&b charts and number 14 on the Billboard 200 charts. The album features the songs “Give It Up,” “I Stand Accused” and “So Whatcha Gone Do Now.” The album sold over 500,000 copies. There’s a Poison Going On came out in 1999. The album features the singles “Do You Wanna Go Our Way,” “Here I Go,” “Crash Crayola” and “What What.” Revolverlution came out in 2002. I peaked at number 16 on the r&b charts and number 110 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Put It Up,” “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” “Son of a Bush” and “Revolverlution.”

New Whirl Odor came out in 2005. The album features the singles “New Whirl Odor,” “Bring That Beat Back,” “What a Fool Believes” and “Makes You Blind.” How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? came out in 2007. It peaked at 49 on the Independent charts. It features the singles “Black Is Back,” “Amerikan Gangster” and “Harder Than You Think.” Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp was released in 2012. It features the songs “I Shall Not Be Moved,” “Get It In,” “Catch the Throne,” “RLTK” and “Truth Decay.”

The Evil Empire of Everything was released in 2012. The album features the singles “Say It Like It Really Is,” “Everything,” ‘Don’t Give Up the Fight,” “Beyond Trayvon,” “31 Flavors” and “Fame.” Man Plans God Laughs came out in 2015. It features the singles “No Sympathy From the Devil,” “Man Plans God Laughs,” “Mine Again,” “Those Who Know, Know Who” and “Me to We.” Nothing Is Quick in the Desert was released in 2017. It features the singles “Yesterday Man,” “Smash the Crowd,” “So Be It” and “Sells Like Teens Hear It.” What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? came out in 2020. It features the singles “State of the Union (STFU),” “GRID,” “Yesterday Man (Remix),” “Smash the Crowd” and “Go at It.”

Public Enemy had a long career in rap music. They rapped about songs that have messages. They didn’t just brag about money, women, clothes and cars the way other rappers do. They wanted the world to know they had something to say. They had to compete with Run DMC, The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, NWA as well as other rap artists for attention. Our Top 10 Public Enemy Songs list will feature their best songs.

# 10 – Night of the Living Baseheads

The first song on our Top 10 Public Enemy Songs list is “Night of the Living Baseheads” from the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album. The song has a hip-hop, rap and pop sound. The social song is about the effects of crack and cocaine in our world during the 80s. This song is still relevant today because drugs are still a problem in the world. They were ahead of their time with this important song.

The word base is another way of saying crack. The title of the song is from the movie The Night of the Living Dead. The song compares people addicted to cocaine to zombies. The group talks about users being left homeless and staying in their cars because of their addiction to crack. The message was designed to make you think. The song came out at the perfect time since the country was dealing with a huge drug epidemic at the time it was released. Public Enemy also talked about African Americans selling drugs to their own community. They were basically killing each other without having to pick up a weapon.

The music features a lot of samples to make the song complete. There are 20 samples included in the song. The message was clear without all of the samples. It’s hard to know what is original as far as the music goes. There are horns blaring throughout the song. It also features the percussion. You are being educated while you can move around to the music. If you can get past the samples, you can listen to the important message behind the song.

# 9 – Rebel Without a Pause

The next song on our Top 10 Public Enemy Songs list is “Rebel Without a Pause” from the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album. The song has a political hip-hop sound. The slick song is the first single from this album. The group achieved success with their debut album so it was time to release music from their sophomore album. The group wanted to change focus from their first album. If you notice, the title is a play on the movie Rebel Without a Cause.

The song is different from their social songs. This song simply talks about their mic skills. Chuck D talks about being on a different level from other MCs in music. He’s making a bold statement because there are a lot of rappers in the business. They might have taken offense at the claim that other MCs aren’t quite on his level. This song could have led to a rap battle among MCs. The song may not have been written to give listeners a deep message, but it was done to get you hyped up. The track opens with Reverend Jesse Jackson talking. Like “Night of the Living Baseheads,” the song features a lot of samples. James Brown’s song “The Grunt” is one of the main samples used for the song.

You can hear James Brown’s wail throughout the song. The saxophone is a sample of The JB’s “Funky Drummer” and “Get Up Offa That Thing.” The funky beat will have you on the dance floor. Chuck D’s skills are untouchable. He raps clearly enough that you can understand what he’s saying. Flavor Flav is the hype man on the track. His job is to get the listeners pumped as Chuck D spits his rhymes.

# 8 – You’re Gonna Get Yours

The lighthearted song is from the Yo! Bum Rush the Show album. The song has a hip-hop beat. The energetic song is about Chuck D’s car. The title of the song could confuse you because it doesn’t indicate that it’s about a car. They use the car as a metaphor for power. Anyone else could hate the car, but it’s special to you. Chuck D’s basically rapping about himself. The song is another departure from the group’s anthemic music. This gives them a chance to talk about something that wasn’t political or serious in nature. It was a chance for the group to have a little fun on the mic.

Chuck D has the chance to boast about his vehicle. He brought attention to the Oldsmobile since that was the car he was driving when he recorded the song. The track is more than just about him bragging about himself and his car. There is still a deep meaning behind the track. The group wants the listeners to know they won’t be stopped by anyone. Chuck D does make reference to the Black Panthers and police officers are their enemies.

This song is from the group’s debut album. It was an indicator of the type of music the group would go on to record. “You’re Gonna Get Yours” features samples from “Getting It On” by Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band, “Super Sporn” by Captain Sky and “Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)” by The Gap Band. It didn’t feature as many samples on this track as the previous entries on our list. The music is funky enough to have you bop your head. Chuck D’s rhymes are on point. He raps with confidence and doesn’t come off as egomaniacal at all. He proved to the world that he’s a talented MC.

# 7 – Bring The Noise

The intense song is from the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album. The song has a hip-hop beat. The gripping song talks about their power, being accepted by Louis Farrakhan, people who are against them and defending rap music. They managed to combine a few subjects in one song. There aren’t too many songs that reference Black Nationalism. They were one of the first rap groups to talk about that. They pay homage to different artists on this jam.

Public Enemy also included a shout out to the group Anthrax who would go on to record the song. The music is funky and energetic. It has a lot of noise. It features the horn, a siren sound effect, a drum machine as well as other sounds. The song also includes record scratching, which was often found in raps songs during the 80s and early 90s. Don’t let the music take away from the message behind the song. The music allows you to move around while you listen to the rapping preacher educate you on different topics. Chuck D is a master on the microphone. He delivers a powerful message that’s worth a listen. He speeds up the lyrics on this track. Flavor Flav provides the hype in the song. His inclusion in the song is to let listeners know that Public Enemy won’t be stopped.

# 6 – Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos

The powerful song is from the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album. It has a hip-hop sound. The intriguing song is about a prisoner who wants to rebel against the system. The prisoner was arrested for refusing to accept his draft notice. He didn’t want to fight for a country that didn’t care about African American men. The song sounds like something from an action movie. Chuck D describes the song as if it were something from a movie.

The song is just as relevant today as it was when it was recorded. There are a lot of minorities who are dealing with issues with the police so this song is timely. Chuck D is a brilliant storyteller and keeps you engaged as he talks about the prisoner. The song is a slight departure from their other tracks. The tempo is slowed down a little. Most of the songs on this album feature several samples from other tracks. They wanted to include a lot of samples for this album. The song doesn’t have as much noise as their other songs. This gives listeners a chance to focus on the powerful lyrics.

The lyrics are moving and will make you think about how African Americans are treated by the police. Listening to this song may make you change your mind about how you feel about the police. Chuck D’s rap will touch your soul. The lyrics are deep and meaningful. He does a fantastic job telling the story behind the song.

# 5 – Shut ‘Em Down

The next song on our Top 10 Public Enemy Songs list is “Shut ‘Em Down” from the Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black album. The song has a hip-hop beat. The eye-opening song is about organizations taking money from the African American community, but not giving anything back. They talk about how major companies refuse to open their businesses in the black community. The best way to handle them is to start your own business. The song has a serious message, but it also gives you hope. They are letting you know that you should go into business for yourself and stop depending on others who don’t support African Americans.

People outside of the black community may not want to hear a song like this, but it’s important to hear it. The message is meaningful today. If companies don’t want to give back to certain communities, it’s time for the people to do something for themselves. Public Enemy wants minorities to help themselves make money instead of helping other businesses thrive. The message is loud and clear because people should go into business for themselves. The music isn’t as fast as their other tracks on our list. This jam was slowed down possibly for effect. The numerous samples would have taken away from the message they were trying to convey. There aren’t enough words to say what has already been said about Chuck D’s rhyming skills. His vocals are clean and concise which will allow you to rap along with him.

# 4 – Can’t Truss It

The political song is from the Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black album. The song has a hip-hop sound. The bitter song is about the corporate world being compared to slavery. Public Enemy wants listeners to know that if African American people don’t own anything, they won’t have jobs. He talks about Caucasian people owning businesses so they have jobs. They are taught how to live in the world. African American people don’t have that luxury. They don’t have anyone to teach them how to do anything. The group compares what African American people are going through to the Holocaust. Jewish people might be offended by the comparison. There are other ways the group could have gotten the point across without comparing it to the Holocaust. The song packs a punch lyrically.

Things are basically the same as they were when the song was recorded. There are still problems with prejudice and oppression today. Like their other tracks, this song features several samples. It features the samples from “Sing a Simple Song” by Sly & the Family Stone, “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” by James Brown, “Hihache” by Lafayette Afro Rock Band as well as a few others. This is one of their most powerful tracks. The song really makes a statement. Chuck D’s skills are unbelievable. He wants to make a statement to the world about the problems African Americans are facing. Flavor Flav’s part isn’t as big as it is in other songs, but he’s featured as the hype man on the track. This song is worth checking out.

# 3 – Don’t Believe the Hype

The conscious song is from the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album. It has a hip-hop sound. The empowering song is about what was going on in the country at the time the song was released. The group doesn’t want you to believe what the media is saying about the world today. They feel the media embellishes stories for no reason. They want you to form your own opinion. The group thinks the media enjoys bringing down African American men every chance they get.

The song is relevant today as it was decades ago when it was released. The title has become a popular phrase for other things. The meaning behind it shouldn’t be lost because it’s become a commercial catch phrase. The lyrics are deep and will make you think about how people are treated in the media. They want you to know there are two sides to every story so you shouldn’t believe everything you read or hear. An example of this would be police brutality cases against minorities. Chuck D sounds very passionate as he explains how the media tries to manipulate people to sell stories.

The song tends to be overshadowed by the group’s other hits, but this one has a deep meaning as well. Chuck D’s phrasing is absolutely flawless. The chorus will stay in your head after the song is done. It’s an easy chorus to remember so it wouldn’t be hard for it to stay in your head.

# 2 – 9-1-1 Is a Joke

The angry song is from the Fear of a Black Plane album. The song has a hip-hop beat. The enraged song takes a jab at emergency rescue teams not being helpful to the African American community. Surprisingly, this song isn’t about the police. The group talks about the paramedics not responding to situations in the black community. Public Enemy feels the paramedics don’t care enough about helping people in urban communities. There aren’t too many tracks that take shots at paramedics.

A lot of rappers write about what the police do to minorities. They don’t write songs about EMTs refusing to help out in urban communities. This song is definitely different because the police are usually called out for their lack of help and not the paramedics’ teams. The track features samples from “Flashlight” by Parliament, Vincent Price’s laugh from “Thriller,” “Misunderstood” by Miko Wave as well as other samples. The music will make you dance as you listen to the lyrics. Flavor Flav has a bigger role in this song than he does on their other tracks.

He’s usually just the hype man on their tracks. He got his chance to spit a verse. Chuck D usually takes the lead on their songs. This gave the listeners a chance to take Flavor Flav seriously because he provides the hype in other songs. He doesn’t usually get the chance to show what he can do as a rapper. This song could have been number one on the list if it weren’t for the one we picked.

# 1 – Fight the Power

The number one song on our Top 10 Public Enemy Songs list is “Fight the Power” from the Fear of a Black Planet album. The song has a hip-hop sound. The social song is about what happens in the African American culture. The song was written for Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The song is told in parts. They go after Caucasian artists such as Elvis Presley and John Wayne. They talk about how racist Elvis Presley was when he was alive even though he was adored by millions of people. Public Enemy revealed that John Wayne was a fan of white supremacy. He didn’t think African Americans should be given any power unless they were educated. People all over the world adored them, but they didn’t have the best views when it concerned minorities. Public Enemy wanted to bring attention to this controversial subject.

This is one of their signature songs. Fans still listen to this song today because the message is timeless. They considered this one of their most important records. It received positive reviews from music critics. The music is infectious and will have you out of your seat. You can dance while listening to the important message behind the song. Chuck D’s rhymes are flawless. He does everything right with the song. He also raps in time with the beat changes. The song had an impact on the community and it’s easy to see why that’s the case. It deserves to be number one on our list.

Top 10 Public Enemy Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021

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