Arguably the greatest hip-hop group of all-time, no other act revolutionised or politicised hip-hop with the sheer force of will of Public Enemy. The most critical signing to Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin's Def Jam Records empire, PE had seemingly all bases covered before they even released a record – a distinctive lead rapper (Chuck D), his comedy foil (Flavor Flav), a second-to-none production team (The Bomb Squad) and, most critically, a living breathing agenda. Debut single Public Enemy No 1 was a stab of dissonant insurrection that would infect all who heard it, and while debut album Yo! Bum Rush The Show (1987) didn't lack in highlights it sounded positively lily-livered against the relentless motherlode of It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1998) – a potent, unrelenting slab of inner city black rage matched by to a tee by the Bomb Squad's heavy sonics. Its reach stretched far beyond the confines of the rap audience, and a heavy weight of expectation hung over 1990's Fear Of A Black Planet. Pioneered by their scene-stealing contribution to Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing flick, Fight The Power, there was little let-up in terms of invention or political intent, although it marked something of a watershed as internal and offstage problems began to take their toll on the group. That PE have never quite recovered their early momentum on a series of lesser-starred efforts through the late 90s and 00s matters little when they're still, to this day, capable of turning out one of the best live shows on this, or any other, planet.
Followers: 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rage Against The Machine
Influenced By: The Sugarhill Gang, Melle Mel, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Whodini, Kurtis Blow, Trouble Funk, James Brown, Grandwizard Theodore, The Commodores...