Public Enemy – Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos

Public Enemy released their single “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” back in 1989. The track was produced by The Bomb Squad and was the fifth single from their revolutionary second studio album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” and released on Def Jam Records.

I am not sure why, but I remember driving my dad’s Toyota to go to school, and having Public Enemy’sNations” tape lliterally stuck in the tape deck.  I lost 3 tapes that way, but i kept going back to Tower Records to buy another one!  I always had to have that tape in heavy rotations and at the time I believed it was the greatest Hip Hop record ever recorded.  In fact, I still do!  Every time “Night of the Living Baseheads” would end, I would get ready for the dopest track on this revolutionary album.

The track is about Chuck D opening his male and seeing that he is being drafted by the Army.  He becomes a draft dodger and ends up behind bars.  He then plans a jail break and with the help of the S1W’s, Chuck breaks out of prison with 52 other brothers! In the video though, he get’s caught and lynched.  The track is lyrically an action movie and Chuck makes it able to see, touch and smell what is going on.

The track samples the piano riff at the end of Isaac Hayes classic track “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” and to vocal samples from “Little Green Apples” by The Escorts and “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder.  It is not the typical PE track, but it’s nice and slow for the listener to pay attention to every single syllable that Chuck spits.  Along with “Welcome to the Terrordome“, “Rebel Without A Pause” and “Bring the Noise“, this track is a Top 5 PE track!

A ballad behind bars or you could say real rock from the rock. An unusual musical happening in a most unusual place. The state prison… (Get in that cell, nigga!)

[Verse 1]
I got a letter from the government the other day
I opened and read it, it said they were suckers
They wanted me for their army or whatever
Picture me giving a damn, I said never
Here is a land that never gave a damn
About a brother like me and myself because they never did
I wasn’t with it but just that very minute it occurred to me
The suckers had authority
Cold sweating as I dwell in my cell, how long has it been?
They got me sitting in the state pen
I gotta get out, but that thought was thought before
I contemplated a plan on the cell floor
I’m not a fugitive on the run
But a brother like me begun to be another one
Public enemy serving time
They drew the line y’all, to criticize me some crime
Nevertheless, they could not understand that I’m a Black man
And I could never be a veteran
On the strength, the situation’s unreal
I got a raw deal, so I’m looking for the steel

[Verse 2]
They got me rotting in the time that I’m serving
Telling you what happened the same time they’re throwing
Four of us packed in a cell like slaves, oh well
The same motherfucker got us living in his hell
You have to realize, what its a form of slavery
Organized under a swarm of devils
Straight up – word ’em up on the level
The reasons are several, most of them federal
Here is my plan anyway and I say
I got gusto, but only some I can trust, yo
Some do a bid from 1 to 10
But I never did, and plus I never been
I’m on a tier where no tears should ever fall
Cell block and locked, I never clock it y’all
Cause time and time again
Time, they got me serving to those and to them, I’m not a citizen
But ever when I catch a C-O
Sleeping on the job, my plan is on go-ahead
On the strength, I’ma tell you the deal
I got nothing to lose
Cause I’m going for the steel[Verse 3]
Don’t you know I caught a C-O
Falling asleep on death row
I grabbed his gun, then he did what I said so
And every man’s demand got served
Along with the time they served, decency was deserved
To understand my demands
I gave a warning, I wanted the governor, y’all
And plus the warden to know
That I was innocent because I’m militant
Posing a threat, you bet it’s fucking up the government
My plan said I had to get out and break north
Just like Oliver’s neck, I had to get off
My boys had the feds in check
They couldn’t do nothing
We had a force to instigate a prison riot
This is what it takes for peace
So I just took the piece
Black for Black inside time to cut the leash
Freedom to get out to the ghetto, no sell out
6 C-Os we got we ought to put their head out
But I’ll give ’em a chance, cause I’m civilized
As for the rest of the world, they can’t realize
A cell is hell, I’m a rebel so I rebel
Between bars, got me thinking like an animal
Got a woman C-O to call me a copter
She tried to get away, and I popped her
Twice, right? Now who wanna get nice?
I had 6 C-Os, now it’s 5 to go
And I’m serious, call me delirious
But I’m still a captive, I gotta rap this
Time to break as time grows intense
I got the steel in my right hand, now I’m looking for the fence

[Verse 4]
I ventured into the courtyard
Followed by 52 brothers bruised, battered, and scarred but hard
Going out with a bang, ready to bang out
But power from the sky and from the tower shots rang out
A high number of dose, yes and some came close
Figure I trigger my steel, stand and hold my post
This is what I mean, an anti-nigga machine
If I come out alive and then they won’t come clean
And then I threw up my steel bullets flew up
And to my surprise the water tower blew up, who shot
What, who, what, the bazooka was who
And to my rescue, it was the S1Ws
Secured my getaway, so I just got away
The joint broke, from the black smoke
Then they saw it was rougher than the average bluffer
Cause the steel was black, the attitude exact
Now the chase is on telling you to c’mon
53 brothers on the run, and we are gone

-Al E.

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