Today we acknowledge a Hip-Hop milestone, a seminal track that was released almost thirty years ago.
Discrimination and inequality have been around for ages, and in my opinion will never leave; that is just the sad reality of our world. Naturally, it is common for society to overlook these setbacks, while others acknowledge and proclaim their need for transformation and progression. Today, there is one music group in particular who catches my eye, who molded their push.
Legendary group, Public Enemy, released their song “Fight the Power,” as their last track on Fear of a Black Planet in 1990. The song includes numerous mentions of politically charged movements, music of James Brown, and African-American culture.
The song first debuted in Spike Lee’s 1989 movie: Do the Right Thing, which tell the story of racial tension within a Brooklyn neighborhood. The movie also leaves the audience reflecting at the end of the film with a reference to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The two are known to have had opposing views on violence: Martin was against and Malcolm who felt that it was “intelligence” – when used as self-defense. Movie critics state Lee’s conclusion of the film was designed for the audience to figure out “what was right.”
I am 19 years old and truthfully if I mentioned “Fight the Power” to someone my age or younger, they would most likely not know the song. It is underrated and needs to be recognized. The countless moving references in this song are vital for aspiring music listeners to know.
The phrase “Fight the Power” is one of the most recognizable lines in Hip-Hop; stemmed from locations such as Kenya, Jamaica, and London. It addresses our corrupt government, and how it squeezes everything it may from the lower class. Some say it is a polite reference to the Isley Brother’s song “Fight the Power” fourteen years prior, and would later be an inspiration for N.W.A’s “F*ck tha Police.”
The song begins with a quote from a 1967 speech by Civil Rights activist, Thomas TNT Todd, about deserters from Vietnam. He ran an ad in the 1960’s for a cigarette brand claiming how the troops would rather “switch than fight.”
I also enjoyed the James Brown references such as “sound of the funky drummer” and “cause I’m black and I’m proud.” There was also a mention of a James Brown inspired tune from Bobby Byrd’s “I Know You Got Soul.” In the second verse, Chuck D highly stresses that there is only one race: human race. There are excerpts of freedom within the song from Bob Marley, and a look back to slavery with:
“Sample a look back you look and find nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check.”
The song concludes with a reference to Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 hit “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. The moral of this song by Public Enemy is a push for awareness. For the people of our nation to wake up. There is a push to fight back towards the “power structure”, because these issues still arise today – police brutality, racism, and prejudice against those with differing sexualities. It all needs to stop. We are all the same race, human race.
Which brings me mass joy when I am informed that Chuck D is continuing Public Enemy’s politically charged legacy with a new group, named after their 1988 album: Prophets of Rage. Guitarist Morello told Rolling Stone: “We’re an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing.” Morello believes our “corrupt system cannot be fixed by the system. It can only be fixed via culture.” Prophets of Rage are said to begin their “Make America Rage Again” tour on the second day of Republican National Convention in Cleveland, in July.