It has been 28 years since Public Enemy formed in Long Island, New York, and 18 years since the hip hop group released their controversial and most successful album "Fear of a Black Planet." Friday night, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, DJ Lord and the S1Ws delivered an epic, almost-two-hour, high-energy performance on the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage on the second night of Summerfest.
The group, known for their politically-charged lyrics, criticism of the media and ability to channel accurate portrayals of the African American experience, opened with "Brothers Gonna Work It Out," and moved on to "911 Is A Joke," "Welcome To The Terrordome," part of "Meet The G That Killed Me," "Bring the Noise," "Don't Believe The Hype," Flav's "Col Lampin'," "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic" (a tribute to former DJ Terminator X), "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," "Burn, Hollywood, Burn," "Who Sold the Soul," "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man," "Shut 'Em Down," "Can't Truss It," "Rebel Without A Pause," "By The Time I Get To Arizona" and finally closed with "Fight The Power."
Chuck D gave many props to Milwaukee. Multiple times he referenced Milwaukee's former curfew and said he almost wrote a song 25 years ago that he called "Curfew in Milwaukee." Also, he mentioned WNOV, former Ald. Michael McGee and Michael McGee, Jr., Brett Farve, sampled the theme music from "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" and twice shouted out to "all the DJs and emcees in Milwaukee."
Flavor Flav -- who wore a Milwaukee Brewers' cap for most of the show -- thanked the audience for helping to make him a reality TV star. Flav starred in numerous VH1 reality series including "The Surreal Life," "Strange Love" and "Flavor of Love." More than halfway through the show, he jumped into the crowd and Chuck D declared it a "bad career move." Flav later soloed on the drums and Chuck D accompanied him with a rhyme from "Timebomb," a track from an early album.
Public Enemy's connection with the audience was constant, strong and political. Chuck D spoke of the lameness of television, called Arizona governor Jan Brewer "(expletive) Hitler" and asked the audience to "try not to be a robot." Throughout the show, group members tossed T-shirts, sweaty towels, hats and CDs into the highly responsive crowd.
"We travel around the world ... but we never forget Milwaukee," said Chuck D.
Chuck D urged the audience to demand new hip hop artists deliver personalized, lengthy shows. "We never give a show less than an hour. Make sure new artists kiss your (expletive) feet," he said.
At one point, Chuck D, who will turn 50 on Aug. 1, referenced his age.
"If you are at least 35 in the audience, move as much as the 50-year-olds on stage," he said. And later, he said, "We're still twice as old as anyone from the old school days. And we will never be lazy with our shit."
Although most of the band's mainstream success fell between the late ‘80s and the mid-90s, Public Enemy continues to release albums, including the most recent from 2007, "How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?"
Public Enemy was the first hip hop group to garner international attention and was one of the first bands to release an MP3-only album. Also, they are often attributed with creating "Rap metal" after collaborating with Anthrax in 1991.
In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Public Enemy 44th on its list of "The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time." Public Enemy paved the way for future groups like Gang Starr, X Clan, Eric B. & Rakim, Queen Latifah, the Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest.
At the close of Friday night's show, Chuck D ended on a positive note. He urged people not to hate and spoke of unity. "Music and culture bring us together as one people," he said.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.