I work for a big company. Which one doesn’t matter because, at my level, they’re all pretty much the same. The important point is that we’re really big, really boring, and really white.
So you might imagine that I was suprised when, while walking through the lobby of our corporate headquarters, I heard Public Enemy’s Can’t Truss It playing over the PA.
For those of you too young to remember, Public Enemy was the voice of the angry underclass. Their music was supposed to be a warning of the social revolution that was coming to sweep all of this away. The cities were going to rise, and the downtrodden were finally going to get theirs. It will probably be hard for anybody under 30 to believe this but there was a time when Flavor Flav, giant clock, gold teeth, and all, evoked fear rather than pity. Yes, children, we were afraid of Flavor Flav.
Public Enemy on the PA. The closest analogy I can think of is if Reagan had used The Internationale as the White House hold music.
I wonder if it was supposed to be a subliminal message to the people waiting in the lobby, the sonic equivalent of a rhino head on the wall. Think you’re tough? These guys thought they were pretty badass for a while, too.
Don’t get me wrong: despite the fact that I am not only Yacub’s grafted devil but (even worse) a Jew, I like to listen to Public Enemy. I’m not a fan of their message, but there’s no denying that it’s some of the best music made in the 80s. I bought Nation of Millions on LP. Yes, I am that old.
I can still remember the night I first heard Don’t Believe the Hype on the radio. It was angry, passionate music and I won’t deny that I was genuinely worried when I realized that the person they were so angry with was, uhh…me. Uh-oh.
I can’t escape the conclusion that Gil Scot-Heron was just wrong. The revolution was televised after all, but it was up against celebrity ice skating so nobody watched.