It was the whistle that made my parents crazy. That shrill, ear-splitting blast. Part siren, part boiled kettle. High pitched and looped from Bring The Noise all the way to Prophets of Rage.
A Nations of Millions… was my first CD and this week marks its 30 year anniversary. Three decades later there’s still nothing that sounds like it. That unmistakable delivery from Chuck D, Flav’s clock-swinging swagger. Hip hop production back then sounded clean but the Bomb Squad managed to capture something raw.
I think I was a little young to truly get its meaning. (Of course, I do think that anyone from my age group knows every single lyric of Bring the Noise–with or without Anthrax.)
But, Chuck and Public Enemy exposed me to Dr. King and so many other potent civil rights touchstones that I would have otherwise missed as a suburban white kid in the 80s. That has to mean something.
If you listen to it now the message is eerily pertinent today. It’s like a Polaroid that’s come back to life reminding you that the work is not done.