The Second Disc

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Reissue Theory: – Public Enemy, “Fear of a Black Planet”

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Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Fear of a Black Planet, the third album by hip-hop legends Public Enemy. Billboard did a great write-up about the album’s impact after two decades, which dovetails rather interestingly into a highly-recommended recent documentary I had the pleasure to see last week. The film, Copyright Criminals, is a thought-provoking look into the rise of sampling in music and the ongoing legal challenges faced by samplers.

Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, as well as members of production team The Bomb Squad and media assassin Harry Allen, are quoted heavily in the doc, which does a good job of reminding you how shockingly unique the P.E./Bomb Squad sound was at the turn of the ’80s. The thicket of samples throughout the record, combined with those unmistakable rhymes by Chuck D. and Flavor Flav, create an urgent, bold, angry sound. But one should not misinterpret the meaning of “angry” – it’s not meant to invoke images of black militants. The best rappers during the early ’90s had this overall sound that evoked rebellion against the status quo. You can hear it in the lyrical delivery as well as the musical background – but if you’re listening right, you don’t feel scared but empowered, ready to take on the world with music as your weapon.

That’s what P.E. did to stunning effect during their near-flawless tenure at Def Jam. Of course, planning a reissue of any of their classic albums would be a holy terror for lawyers everywhere. Would all of those samples, then uncredited, have to clear with other labels? Would the group – no fan of their former corporate overlords at the new Def Jam, now part of Universal Music Group – be willing to play fair with the suits? Would there even be enough material to fit a bonus disc? (None of it would fit on one disc, next to the hour-long album.)

But the idea of a CD/DVD version – viewable after the jump – might be a fitting tribute to the group – and the beats – that made hip-hop such a cultural force.

Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet (Def Jam CK 45413, 1990)

Disc 1: Original LP

  1. Contract on the World Love Jam
  2. Brothers Gonna Work It Out
  3. 911 is a Joke
  4. Incident at 66.6 FM
  5. Welcome to the Terrordome
  6. Meet the G That Killed Me
  7. Pollywannacraka
  8. Anti-N—– Machine
  9. Burn Hollywood Burn
  10. Power to the People
  11. Who Stole the Soul?
  12. Fear of a Black Planet
  13. Revolutionary Generation
  14. Can’t Do Nuttin’ for Ya Man
  15. Reggie Jax
  16. Leave This Off Your F—in’ Charts
  17. B Side Wins Again
  18. War at 33 1/3
  19. Final Count of the Collision Between Us and the Damned
  20. Fight the Power

Disc 2 (DVD): Tour of a Black Planet (SMV Enterprises 19V-49050 – live set previously released on VHS, 1991)

  1. Can’t Truss It
  2. Brothers Gonna Work It Out 
  3. Contract on the World Love Jam
  4. 911 is a Joke
  5. Buck Whylin’ (Terminator X)
  6. Incident at 66.6 FM
  7. Anti N—– Machine
  8. Burn Hollywood Burn
  9. Can’t Do Nuttin’ for Ya Man
  10. Get the F— Outta Dodge
  11. Bring the Noise (featuring Anthrax)
  12. Who Stole the Soul?
  13. Fight the Power (music video) *
  14. 911 is a Joke (music video) *
  15. Brothers Gonna Work It Out (music video) *
  16. Can’t Do Nuttin’ for Ya Man (music video) *

* were not part of the original VHS program

Written by Mike Duquette

March 16, 2010 at 10:47

Posted in Features, Public Enemy, Reissues

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4 Responses

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  1. I’m all for a deluxe reissue of “Fear of a Black Planet”, as long as there is first a deluxe reissue of “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”. Call me naive but I’m actually surprised neither reissue has happened yet.


    March 16, 2010 at 16:39

    • Agreed. Universal’s got the rights, but perhaps they need some kind of approval they’re never going to get (sample clearance, artist approval, etc).

      Mike Duquette

      March 16, 2010 at 16:51

  2. I don’t think it’s a sample clearance issue, as the equally sample-heavy “Paul’s Boutique” got a (admittedly bare-bones) reissue last year.


    March 16, 2010 at 17:40

  3. A little research (the P.E. website, for instance) shows that there were deluxe 2-disc sets planned for both “Fear” and “Millions” but that Universal pulled the plug after a website posted a list of alleged uncleared samples from the two records. Chuck D claimed the lists were bullshit, but Universal pulled the plug anyway. Both releases were pretty far down the line when this happened, there must be music floating around out there somewhere.


    March 18, 2010 at 08:41

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