Thursday, December 13, 2012

Public Enemy and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Public Enemy live favorite Chuck D and Public Enemy will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.  When Chuck D provided the keynote address to the "Hip Hop and the American Constitution" course in April 2012, offered collaboratively by Drexel Law and WVU Law, he spent the first portion of his address sharing with our law school students and invited guests, the induction speech he had written for 2012's R&R HOF inductees, The Beastie Boys.  Now Chuck and PE will have the opportunity to craft their own acceptance speech for their own HOF induction.

Public Enemy's Hall of Fame induction is important for many reasons:  First, PE will be only the fourth hip hop group inducted into the R&R HOF (following on the heels of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, RUN-DMC, and the Beastie's), but PE will become the first overtly political and socially conscious hip hop group to be inducted and recognized for the movement that they inspired.

Second, PE was not just controversial at launch, but they unabashadely critiqued (a) the criminal justice system in the United States (in "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" and "Can't Truss It," amongst many others); (b) continuing and festering racism in America (in "Fight the Power" and "By the Time I Get to Arizona," amongst many others); and (c) police brutality and inner city neglect (in "Get the F Outta Dodge" and "9-1-1 is a Joke," amongst many others).  Public Enemy inspired listeners to write, protest, rap, and actively engage in fighting against injustice and promoting education and intelligent criticism.

Third, PE, certainly Chuck and Professor Griff,  viewed themselves as educators AND entertainers, not simply entertainers.  With a strident message to deliver, Chuck, Griff and PE were relentless in their lyrics and their delivery.  For this, PE was annihilated by critics when they emerged in the early 1990s.  Still, PE knew that their target audience was not the establishment nor their critics, rather young people that needed to be educated in a way different than was being delivered by most U.S. public schools. "Messages" delivered below:

In rewatching Can't Truss It, one is reminded just how controversial and edgy PE was when they came out in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  The choice for induction in the R&R HOF is certainly deserved as this groundbreaking group paved the way for so many others to follow.  Congratulations to Chuck D and Public Enemy on their selection for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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