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"On the one and infinite, again" - PUBLIC ENEMY, ALBUM REVIEW, 1994, MELODY MAKER



[Def Jam/Island]

IF growing up black is a process of losing hope then in the past few years a lot of us have grown up real fast. It’s not even about alienation from white culture, it’s alienation from culture full stop. And the moment you realise you aren’t welcome today is when you realise you never were welcome, that you bought the lie of unity, of doors opening, not slamming shut. White pop has never been more in retreat from its black heart, the racist steal inherent to its 40 year history never more active. Your idols fear being “swamped” and conjure up little-England pre-immigration fantasies of (Park)life. To the rest of us the door into discourse is firmly shut until we give up our intellect. If your IQ ain’t down you’re not getting in. By DE-INTELLECTUALISING US, you can sit back, do nothing while the super-structure takes care of itself. It ain’t that I want in, but why do you want us out? Redress is due and it’s coming. This LP isn’t just a stunning return to form for Public Enemy, it’s perhaps the most powerful horrified answer to what you are doing to black culture yet, and along with Fugees, Souls Of Mischief, and all the various English miscegenators (Portishead, Fun-Da-Mental, Moody Boyz) it shatters the bloated hoax of white critical discourse beyond your powers to revive it, beyond its ability to sell itself as anything other than a cruel joke, a construct of oppression.

   We needed this LP more than ever and PE have given us more than we could have hoped for. In purely musical terms this is a staggering album, a flowing cinematic wash of sound for your speakers to cream over. PE have given their chaos a certain warmth, honed it down, lent it a richer, liver feel: bass and drums, choicest breaks and loops tearing through your butt unhindered. Some of this is the most gorgeous music I’ve heard in hip-hop; the soulswish of “Give It Up”, the beautiful piano flutter of “White Heaven/Black Hell”, the Fugee skip of “Thin Line Between Law And Rape”. “Bedlam” turns Flav’s atonal bark into its own instrument over a revving, hyperkinetic beat; “Race Against Time” is simply huge, the titanic beat sucking in screams and chants in its wake as it blisters by. “I Stand Accused” is swingbeat as paranoia, G-funk with its back against the wall. Above all, it’s the variety of styles that’s astounding, every track here (I can’t find a duffer) as its own universe, woven into an hour-long funky symphony.

   Two tracks here transcend everything PE have ever done and raise the ante for the rest of the rap world. “Live And Undrugged” is fevered but controlled, the whole thing seemingly orchestrated to put you in a cold sweat, the needling keys and loping bass coming close to mid-Seventies Miles hair-trigger funk, Chuck’s voice growing more and more hysterical until fear breaks over you like a rash. “So Watcha Gonna Do Now?” is the last word on gangsta; toward the end the beat absconds, samples are faded in aof found voices, film dialogue and television noise, radio interviews, cut up to create a debate, find their own truth, react to each other. It’s a minute of pure studio magic, a piece of pop wizardry that’s rare and righteous and all the more affecting for it.
   PE changed my life for ever and every PE album is my album of the year. This one doesn’t get it merely by default though. On the one and infinite, again, an unmissable and essential purchase. 


  1. Interesting how this seemed to polarise opinions in the press, I remember NME giving this 0/10 . I agree much more with this review but still think its a flawed attempt to come up with a Fear Of A Black Planet Part 2 that doesn't quite come off - but the good tracks are definitely up there with almost anything PE did


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