This is no hype, so you can believe this. With very few exceptions, rap aka Hip Hop records (today they are the same thing) haven’t delivered substance in years. PE’s new album, “How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Sold,” brings meaning and feeling back to this lackluster genre. The album brims over with social relevance, soul, quality, and most importantly a sound and energy that will remind true fans of why Hip Hop became such a powerful art form.
The album reminds me of a combination of PE’s first three classic albums. Chuck D’s booming voice is as powerful on this album as it was over twenty years ago. He doesn’t waste words- everything he speaks is vital. Overall, his lyrics are more relevant today, than ever before. The tracks address social plagues such as racism, greed, and violence, however, it’s clear that the most prominent target in PE’s crosshairs is ignorance. Not only ignorance propelled by major media and government, but that which has been perpetuated from within the genre itself. This isn’t a blame game; Chuck calls it like it is- as usual, pulling no punches.
But what about the music?
All the meaning in the world can’t make an album great if the music isn’t just as potent. On this album, Public Enemy delivers the goods. The music has such a classic feel. The production is comprised of what Hip Hop was supposed to be- music without boundaries- a sound that taps into all niches of music. This is what made Hip Hop so universal in the first place. Nowadays, the genre is so predictable and definable. Today, most of the musical ground covered on a typical Hip Hop release can be poured into narrow snifter- presumably for Remy Martin or Courvoisier. What makes this album so exciting is that PE creates such a dynamic soundscape on “How to Sell Soul to a Soulless People who Sold Their Soul”: Hard rock and acoustic guitars, driving drums, classic breaks, soulful vocals, and powerful vocals are plentiful.
The monster track on the album is “Black is Back.” Chuck has never been as relevant, authoritative, and compelling as he is on this phenomenal example of what Hip Hop should be. Every syllable demands attention. The drums, guitars, and cowbells are perfect. The song is current today, yet at the same time reminiscent of a long lost gem from the golden era of rap- spectacular and flawless.
Throughout the album, Flava Flav does what he does best- be Flav. His hype man ranting on choruses, and unorthodox rhyming is a contrast that helped make PE a phenomenal. The album does feature a very special guest appearance from KRS ONE on “Sex, Drugs, and Violence”- it works so well and is in the tradition of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.” It features children on the chorus singing about their love for these three things in their favorite rap lyrics.
To respond to Chuck’s question in the song “Can You Hear Me Now?”; Yes, loud and clear for 20 years!
Pick up Chuck D’s “Tribb to JB” which was featured on Insomniac’s Best Gift for the Hip Hop Fan in Your Life