Vancouver, British Columbia…consider yourselves warned…(cue airhorn)
What a fuckin’ week! If you had told me my month would end with Erick and Parrish Makin’ Dollars a few feet away from me, and two days later I would be at the front of a mob raising my fist with Chuck D, Flavor Flav and the S1Ws, I’d have called you a liar. Or made out with you. Let the record show, I enter May 25 and May 27, 2010, as Exhibits A and B, proof they don’t make ‘em like they used to.
From the Contract On The World Love Jam intro to Shut ‘Em Down to Fight The Power, a Commodore-full of people were riveted, fists in the air, hanging off every word that parachuted itself out of Chuck D’s mouth. In the future, any hip hop act that rolls through Vancouver, and does a quick 45 minute set, should be put on notice. PE gave us a two hour set. Two hours of Chuck and Flav running the length of the stage, Flav, doing his patented twitch-dance, and juggling the mic like a hot potato, and Chuck never loosening the chokehold on his. Never missing a lyric, I think. Hard to tell, as every motherfucker in there was on back-up vocals. I was basically the third MC, rapping every song with them from my spot in the crowd, start to finish. Songs like Welcome To The Terrordome, the Prince-sampling Brothers Gonna Work It Out and Louder Than A Bomb, which perfectly describes the reaction we gave these elder statesmen throughout. Hold that metaphor. We were just ticking through the rest of the set. The explosion came at the opening strains of Bring The Noise. I think we showed Chuck just “how low (we could) go…”
With a heavy focus on ‘Fear of a Black Planet‘ and ‘It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back,’ and a light sprinkling of ‘Apocalypse ‘91‘ and ‘Yo! Bum Rush The Show,’ this was essentially a two hour tour through the early days. And let’s face it, those are the days that made us all fall in love with PE in the first place.
I think we can safely say we saw the drummer get wicked (and the bassist) but I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize the amazing guitar work as well. The guitarist played behind his back, and at one point laid the guitar on the ground, the final chord still going, did a lap of the stage, picked it up and went flawlessly into his next display of lightning-fingers.
As I’m sure you are aware, if you tuned in for any of my articles during PE month (this guilt trip brought to you by the fine folks of My Mom Inc.), Terminator X retired to his ostrich-farm. We all still paid homage, and for the duration of Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic, crossed our arms and held our X’s in the air. His successor, DJ Lord, was also not in attendance. No big deal. We were only left with KEITH FUCKING SHOCKLEE FROM THE LEGENDARY MOTHERFUCKIN’ BOMB SQUAD!!!! Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Tubbs from Miami Vice, crossed with ED-209 from Robocop, Keith’s rat-a-tatting drum beats and razor sharp cuts came at us from all angles relentlessly. I determined a few weeks ago that The Bomb Squad was the second-most vital component of PE. This night confirmed, once again, Nuv is always right…
Just behind The Bomb Squad, Public Enemy No. 2.5 would be Flavor Flav, who invented the hype man, and showed just how integral a piece of the PE machine he is, reality shows be damned. 911 Is A Joke, Can’t Do Nuttin’ For Ya Man and an impromptu freestyle spotlighted the trickster, but really, he was on display the whole night. Always supporting Chuck, knowing where to come in, what to back up, striking animated poses, he was working for every second of the set. All you saw was a cackling blur with a clock dragging behind it. A high point, and one that showed another of the many facets of Flavor Flav, was when he took over the drums, allowing the audience to fill in on the 4 with claps, while Chuck ran through a ‘Yo! Bum Rush…’ medley. Chuck would go on to describe Flav as two cups of sugar, the rest of PE as two gallons of water. Weird analogy, and a jug of sugar water sounds grosser than the gunt-wielding chicks behind me in the crowd, but, point being: taken on it’s own, the sugar is sickening. In concert with the rest, everything mixes just right.
“On stage I rage and I’m rollin’…” Which brings me to the rhyme and reason for all of this. The centrepiece. ‘Mista’ Chuck D. What can I say? The man is just as commanding and mesmerizing a presence on stage as he is on record. An amazing feat considering he recorded many of the songs decades ago, but sounds just as amped, fresh, and vital, as ever. This performance reaffirmed his spot in my Top 10 MCs of all-time, as well as his spot at Number 1 within Public Enemy. (Which reminds me: my only real complaint was no performance of the song that first united Chuck and Flav, and named PE – Public Enemy No. 1…motherfuck that and John Wayne.)
I was trying to find a way to sum up the greatest, livest, most important group that Hip Hop will ever know and boil my feelings on the show down to one conclusive statement. Know what I came up with? Three words followed by a one million exclamation point march.
Fuck. Yeah. Boyeeeeee.
Now turn your cap sideways and salute the S1Ws on your way out.
[Click here and lay your peepers on Captain Arthritis' looking through the crosshairs at The Enemy.]