India Arie
Blessid Union of Souls
Tracy Chapman
Ani Difranco
Fisk Univ. Jubilee Singers
Gil Scott Heron
Ice Cube
Mason Jennings
Talib Kweli
Bob Marley
Curtis Mayfield
Prussian Blue
Public Enemy
Jill Scott
Tupac Shakur
The Band
Kanye West


8 Mile
A Time to Kill
American History X
Bend It Like Beckham
Boys Don't Cry
Gentleman's Agreement
G.I. Jane
The Green Mile
Guess Who
Hotel Rwanda
I Am Sam
Malcolm X
Mi Familia
Mississippi Burning
Out of the Ashes
Pleasantville (1)
Pleasantville (2)
Real Women Have Curves
Schindler's List
Something New
The Birth of a Nation
The Pianist
To Kill a Mockingbird


Public Enemy

To people of privilege, the rap group Public Enemy was considered to be worst than their name implied. In a society that has problems disguising its uneven playing field, Chuck D and Flavor Flav shined light on a system in a way that frightened many suburban Americans. This group from the late 1980s expressed radical political views and highlighted incidents of discrimination across the United States. Sometimes called the “black CNN,” Public Enemy encouraged social activism and often condoned revolutionary tactics of resistance. For example, martial arts and fake Uzi’s were used in their performances while the Security of the First World dancers, led by choreographer Professor Griff, were dressed in all black or army fatigues. 

Public Enemy’s debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was released in 1987. This album received good reviews in the black community but was overlooked by the mainstream R&B and rock culture. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy’s second album, was as revolutionary as rap and rock critics expected. The album contained positive endorsements of Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam that could not be ignored. Additionally, the single Fight the Power caused a major uproar because it criticized certain public figures who were considered idols and role models by the mainstream of society: 

                   Elvis was a hero to most
                   But he never meant sh*t to me you see
                   Straight up racist that sucker was
                   Simple and plain
                   Mother f**k him and John Wayne
                   Cause I'm Black and I'm proud
                   I'm ready and hyped plus I'm amped
                   Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps
                   Sample a look back you look and find
                   Nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check
                   (© 1995 Def Jam Records; From:

This album represented the beginning of rap music being used to promote social change. 

Public Enemy’s other albums had similar impact on society. Their third album release, Fear of a Black Planet, also caused controversy. The first single released from this album, Welcome to the Terrordome, claimed that they were persecuted for sending a message of truth, just like Jesus was. Some claimed the albums views and lyrics were anti-Semitic. By the fourth album, Apocalypse 91, Public Enemy began to try to speak to their white audience by collaborating with the metal group Anthrax. This album received amazingly positive reviews. Unfortunately, Public Enemy began to lose popularity as other rap artists, influenced by their style, began to emerge on the scene. 


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