Saturday, May 19, 2007


In the earliest days of the rap game, racial tension escalated from coast-to-coast as rap rose to popularity and, ultimately, into the psyche of the entire nation. The discussion of lyrical content in "gangsta rap" (one of the most hideous descriptions for a sub-genre ever) and the unusual presence of violent, misogynistic and racially-explosive material sent the nation's news cannons into a whirlwind. It was either because of this or this was so because groups like N.W.A. and Public Enemy perfectly brought together the audio and visual components and the recorded package, as it sat on the shelf to be viewed by the buying public, portrayed a defined element of danger and the type of curiosity that leads to leads a young cub away from his mother. Designed to instill both fear and curiosity, these three iconic images will forever represent the volatile social and political confusion and resulting explosiveness of the albums they represent.

I present, firstly, N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton.

To interpret it quite literally, it's exactly what you'll see if you make a wrong turn onto Crenshaw Blvd on hot Saturday afternoon in August. You got the whole crew (even jehri curl-having Ice Cube--I see you, homie) and Eazy-E with a handcannon pointed directly at your forehead. The suffocation of twelve eyes staring down at you before you face your untimely demise is the stuff that nightmares are made of. And for those who had never been to Compton, you swore when you saw this album cover, you never wanted to go there. In fact, for some, you might stay the hell out of California for this album cover alone.
I remember when I first purchased this on cassette. It'd be the first time I'd actually see Public Enemy in my young life. The image partnered with the words It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back left a scarring in my mind that would thankfully never heal. Chuck D and Flav "col' sweatin as they dwell in their cell," I was drawn to their music. The defiance in Chuck's posture; with his chin up, mean-mugging. I wanted the Raiders ballcap. I wanted a grey hoodie. I wanted Flav's clock. To this day, the cover art from this record still brings a smirk like the photograph of an old friend from summer camp.
Ah, yes, Yo! Bum Rush the Show. This is the "takeover," if you will. Public Enemy ambushing the radio station, Flav with his hand on the turntable, Prof. Griff, the S1W's and Terminator staring down the DJ and Chuck in all white in what could be interpreted as almost an angelic presence in the very center. It's almost a pronouncement, it's Public Enemy arriving with force and vengeance. As Yo! would be their first album, the cover art is fitting to what Public Enemy would adhere to the rest of their career--taking over the airwaves and feeding the zombies in radioland information, the truth that pop formats mask and a forecast of the danger that's to come. Photo from legend Glen. E. Friedman. Beautiful stuff.
Off to OKC for Tool with Angry Tim and Mayhem. Thanks to Q at Traffic for the MC Shan, Biz Markie, Lord Finesse and Mobb Deep promos. We be rockin it all the way across Oklahoma.

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