Public Enemy and the People Who Love Them

“You like Public Enemy?” asks the middle aged African American man at the next table.

“What?” I shout over the crowd and the DJ on the stage.

He gives me an incredulous look and yells, “YOU LIKE PUBLIC ENEMY?”

“Oh,” I nod, “Yes.” I then go back to my book.

I feel someone looking at me and glance up from my book to find the man now leaning over my table. “Really? You like Public Enemy.” This is when I notice his two friends behind him. Suddenly I remembered how I reassured my husband that I would perfectly fine at the Public Enemy concert by myself. Gulp.

“I do. Is that really so hard to believe?”

Now he slides into the chair next to me, “Yeah, I find it hard to believe.”

I can’t help myself, “Why is that?” I ask.

“‘Cause you’re too young, too white, and judging by your religious book, too nice to know anything about Public Enemy,” he responds. (By the way, the “religious” book I was reading while waiting through the start of the opening acts was “Prophets and Protons: New Religious Movements and Science in Late Twentieth-Century America” by Benjamin Zeller. It would have been really fun to ask him exactly how “religious” he found Heaven’s Gate!)

I politely explain that I can’t help any of that, but the fact remains that yes, I like Public Enemy and in fact, I had been enjoying the act on stage, Propaganda, and would like to go back to that now.

His friend leans over so I can hear him, “You like the guy on stage now?”

“Yes, his diction is incredible and I like how even though he’s touring with PE (that would be Public Enemy) a decidedly East Coast rap group, he’s not afraid to use a West Coast sound,” I find myself shouting. (By the way, I bought Propaganda’s album at the show. Not too shabby.)

At this the group starts to laugh. While they’re laughing I add, “And I know all the words to ‘Bring the Noise'”. They laugh even harder, then the instigator starts, “Bass! How low can you go?”, and then we start doing the lyrics together, until he finally starts forgetting the words. And that is how I ended up only needing to buy one drink for myself that night.

My new friends and I struggled through a mind numbing amount of opening acts. I wish I could tell you who they all were, but I seriously lost track. There were a few I genuinely enjoyed, a few that were all right, and there were a couple that just did not do it for me, or the guys at my table. Turns out my new friends lived in Albany, but had moved north from Brooklyn and Long Island, and they assured me that if I was in New York City “folks would be rioting about now, making us wait like this.” I couldn’t help but agree with them, it was getting pretty damn late and there was still no Public Enemy. But at last, at around 10:30PM, PE took to the stage.

Totally worth it. Hell yeah. I was the walking the dead the next day, my chiropractor thought I had actually been physically assaulted I was so messed up when she saw me, I barely remained conscious long enough to tell my husband about my day when he came home from work, and I would do it all again in an instant.

Now let’s turn our attention to the main event, in convenient bullet point!

– Public Enemy has energy. These guys are older than me and they’re jumping up and down, climbing the stage, working their asses off. I stood up and tapped my foot for their set and it just about killed me, so respect to them.

– I FINALLY “GET” FLAVA FLAV. I mean, he never made any sense. There’s Chuck D, who is freakin’ Chuck D, you’ve got the tough S1Ws in military uniforms, and then you have….a dude wearing a giant clock as a necklace bumbling around? But having finally seen them live, I GET IT! Flava Flav is the counter balance to Chuck D. He encourages D to show off a playful side on stage, and he actually does pump up the crowd. He managed to make me excited for the start of “911 is a Joke” and I never really liked that song.

– DJ Lord is a BAD ASS. Who is DJ Lord? I know! I’m apparently not that big of a fan because I didn’t know that in 1999 he replaced Terminator X in Public Enemy. Holy cow this guy is good! Fun fact: I assumed he was DJ Lord because it was this big, boastful, rapper name. No, his first name is Lord. So in actually he is a total bad ass and gave himself the equivalent stage name of DJ Ted. Seriously, the guy is amazing.

– Public Enemy is comfortable with this new era of music and technology. People in the front row would hold up assorted devices to record the show and instead of ignoring them or getting security to knock it off, Chuck D would take the cameras and hold them up in front of him to better record what he was doing. Another fun example was when Chuck D was telling people to go to their website,, to download a song. He said, get out your smart phones and do it now, because he knows that if he fell on his ass right now that in under 60 seconds he would be able to go to YouTube and find “Chuck D falls on ass in Clifton Park”, so there is zero excuse to not get out your damn smart phone and download it now.

– Hey, Public Enemy knew they were in Clifton Park! Chuck D and Flava Flav proved that they are not just New York City guys, they are New Yorkers. Flava Flav’s daughter just graduated from a high school in Albany, NY. Chuck D told everyone about how Flava Flav fell off a speaker in Troy, NY. It was nice that for once an act wasn’t telling me how great it was to be back in Albany, NY….a city at least 30 minutes south of the venue.

– Oh hey, you might want to know, they sounded great. Two DJs and a live band. Chuck D and Flava Flav. They really lived up to the legend. A thing that separates the boys from the men; they were having some problems with feedback off of their mikes if they were in a certain spot. Instead of avoiding the spot, or gesturing wildly at the sound guy, they used the feedback strategically. The way a guitarist uses feedback for his solo.

It was an amazing experience. I became the unlikely companion to a bunch of fans, I heard a lot, although admittedly potentially too much, of other rap artists, I bought a new Public Enemy t-shirt to replace the one I still have from high school, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, I actually got a little teary-eyed when they performed “Harder Than You Think”.