This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #389: Don’t Believe the Hype by Public Enemy.
As we have seen in previous posts that dealt with Hip Hop songs, the origin of Rap music was so those who felt disenfranchised by society could have a voice. Initially, Hip Hop was limited to regional music scenes but, with the emergence of groups such as Run-DMC, Hip Hop began to have more of a national presence in the US. This national platform proved an effective vehicle for new groups to air grievances and/or offer commentary about situations that were going unreported in mainstream media circles. N.W.A. and their album, “Straight Outta Compton” brought a west coast perspective to what was happening in Black communities. In the east, a group called Public Enemy accomplished the same thing with a landmark album called, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”. From that album came came the track, “Don’t Believe the Hype”.
Public Enemy was comprised of MC, Chuck D., singer and hype master, Flava Flav and DJ, Professor Griff. The intention behind the album, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” was to create a Hip-Hop equivalent to Marvin Gaye’s seminal, “What’s Going On?”, as a vehicle for offering social commentary for the times. Those times included discussions about systemic discrimination against people of colour resulting in endless cycles of poverty and crime, police brutality, as well as, personal identity and education and who society selects to mythologize and enact as public role models. Chuck D. set out to unapologetically politicize the state of affairs that black people had to contend with as they went about their daily lives. His rapping style is bombastic and strong and leaves no doubt where he allegiances lay. The song, “Don’t Believe the Hype” is a clarion call about, among other things, racial profiling and the general belief among many white people that all black men are thugs and are dangerous and need to be controlled, as a result. He said the inspiration for the song was author Noam Chomsky.
Public Enemy produced some of the most important music of the 1980s and 90s. They spoke straight from the heart about matters affecting the lives of people in their community. As musicians, they played loud and fast and came at their songs from a variety of perspectives, using many different sounds and samples. Their live shows were noted for the force of their stage presence; the energy that they brought to bear, as well as, the interplay between the serious Chuck D. and the often comedic/satiric antics of Flava Flav. Overall, Public Enemy rank as one of the best Hip Hop groups of all time. They have enjoyed album sales well into the millions, they were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 and they received a Lifetime Grammy Award in 2020. Here is their track, “Don’t Believe the Hype”. Enjoy.
The link to the music video for “Don’t Believe the Hype” by Public Enemy, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Public Enemy, can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for supporting all genres of music. The link to their fabulous website can be found here.