Yeeeaaaaa Booiiiiiii! Hip-hop legends Chuck D, Flavor Flav, DJ Lord, Professor Griff and his S1W group performed at Sound Academy this long weekend, and some bad-perm ladies (@TheWomansWork and myself) were of course there to capture the night. This year marks a quarter of a century for the group Public Enemy’s revolutionary career in hip-hop. And even more amazing is the fact that last week their first single, “Harder Than You Think”, off their 20th anniversary album “How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?” hit number four on UK charts.
I can’t lie. The last music video I peeped before heading to the show was 2Chainz and Kanye West’s “Birthday Song”.
So, in the “bad bitch” era of rap music where all we seem to want for our birthday is a “big booty hoe”, it was refreshing to go to a hip-hop concert and not hear misogyny come out of the MC’s mouths. I’d rather watch S1W do their marching step routine, than scantily clad dancers twerking anyday. Instead of playing upon tired negative stereotypes, PE came to uplift and motivate the Toronto crowd, who gladly chanted “REAL HIP-HOP!”, just before Chuck D came on stage.
At 52, Chuck D can still put on a bomb ass show. He kicked off the set with “Louder than a Bomb”, handling the mic with precision, every bar on point. Flav burst onto the stage in the middle of “Rebel Without a Pause”, the second song of the set, wearing a Public Enemy hoodie pulled down over his face. At first, he seemed kind of withdrawn, and I was concerned that Flav just may not have it anymore. Until he suddenly tore off his hoodie, revealing a “Canadian Ehhhhhh!” snapback (I’m not huge on nationalism, but that snapback made me want to hug a beaver or something) and his signature giant-clock chain, causing the crowd to go off. Just as the hands of Flav’s clock remain fixed in the six o’clock position, time does not seem to faze this man. I’ve been to many concerts where artists half their age couldn’t bring a fraction of PE’s energy. Flav emphasizes every song’s beat with giant leaps across the stage, and of course doing his infamous Tae-Bo like dance moves. (In case you want to impress the opposite sex at your next social gathering, here are the musical instructions on How To Do the Flavor Flav.) Pure entertainment. Flav is arguably the best hip-hop hype man of all time. He even crowd surfed right on top of me and surrounding fans. It was like we were holding up a piece of hip-hop history. Insane.
Some heads might say that Flav has sold out to cheesy, demeaning reality TV execs with “Flavor of Love”, but he reminded the crowd that we, the public, helped make the show wildly successful. So at least he did it as a winner.
And DJ Lord showed us why Flav claims, “Can’t nobody fuck wit my DJ.” He did a rap metal mix of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I’m not a huge fan of rock, but he killed it.
As for the crowd, I was slightly nervous while waiting in line when I peeped a dude knocked out cold, being taken away by paramedics on a stretcher. (Already?! It’s only 8:00 PM…) But really, the concertgoers consisted of men and women mostly in their late 20’s and 30’s, of all different backgrounds. There was everyone from guys with long ponytails and Slipknot hats, to hand-holding happy couples. The political message Public Enemy stands for is universal, so the diversity there was not surprising. It was a beautiful thing to see long-time fans front row, faithfully rapping along to every single word. One guy got pulled up on stage by Flav, holding up his actual license plate, which read “Lampin’”, a tribute to Flav’s song “Cold Lampin'”. When they gave him the mic, he yelled “This is for my boy [Flav]! I’ve waited my whole life to give this to you!” That was definitely a hip-hop feel-good moment.
Unexpectedly, PE invited Canadian emcees Michie Mee and Maestro Fresh Wes to bless the stage. In the spirit of Public Enemy’s anti-authority, Maestro took a jab at Toronto’s full-figured mayor:
“I told Rob Ford, stick to your vision but when I saw him eat: bro, stick to nutrition.” – Maestro Fresh Wes
Chuck D literally fell to the floor laughing at that one.
More memorable lines on Canadian music/politics from his freestyle:
“Before Drake was on the tour bus rhyming with Wayne, I was in my basement, vibin’ to Kane”
“You conservative or liberal, I’ll hit you with the lyrical // Mulroney tried to school me but I’m one smooth criminal”
“I got crispy Brickleys. Six Lewinskis // Celine and Shania Twain both wanna lick me”
“I was in the class with my teacher, Chris Parker // And that’s the reason why I’m too sharp for Steven Harper”
Dope. And Michie Mee’s double time was deadly.
Although I’m a sucker for merch, the best thing I’ve ever taken home from a concert was the Public Enemy set list, used that night from right off the stage. A kind soul reached out and passed it to my outstretched hand among the crowd. It’s now hanging on my wall framed. (*hip hop nerd moment*)
Between songs, PE dropped some serious knowledge on the crowd.
Chuck shared some anti-nationalist sentiments in response to Jay-Z’s invitation to join a hip-hop show celebrating American hip-hop artists.
“Jay-Z put together a Made in America Budweiser show in Philadelphia. Y’all know about that? So you can see RUN DMC performance on Youtube. They asked us early do we wanna be part of that. I respect Jay-Z…no I like Jay-Z, a whole lot, I think he’s great. But we ain’t never gonna be a part of no Made In America bullshit. Never. We are citizens of the planet. Consider ourselves earthizens…I ain’t made in no fucking place…I ain’t made in America. Each time y’all go to America, don’t bring dumb shit back here. Don’t dumb yourself down, ‘cause that’s the fuckin’ American way. Fuck that bullshit. ” –Chuck D
Powerful and controversial words, considering that he threw shade at one of the most powerful hip-hop moguls alive, and the most powerful country in the world, all in one political statement. FIGHT THE POWER!!!!
Here’s some more samples of the hip-hop wisdom they bestowed upon us mortals:
“It’s about the people. Human beings. One planet earth. You see my Bob Marley wrist band up here. One world. One people. One love. That’s some real shit y’all.” -Chuck D
“We are all connected.” – Chuck D
“These journalists. These radio stations. Continue to play y’all bullshit. You gotta attack those mothafuckas in protest.” -Chuck D
“You gotta challenge information.” – Chuck D
“Long live hip-hop. FOREVER. It is a craft. It is an art form. NOT a hustle.” -Chuck D
“How do you spell protest? P.R.O.T.E.S.T. Cause where there’s protest you got to go and spell P.E.” -Chuck D
“To all our ladies and sisters in the audience, don’t let rap treat you like bullshit. Stand up and let yourselves be heard!” -Chuck D
“All I wanna say is FUCK the government.” -Flav
“I’m against separatism…being separate is the reason why we have all these world wars going on. We got all of these territoral wars going on in our neighbourhoods with gangs and shit. We got all kinds of racial wars going on around the world and the shit needs to stop.” -Flav
“There’s a lot of people that come up to me with money…and say yo Flav sign this bill for me…and the reason why I won’t put my name on it is because money is the root of all evil.” -Flav
“No matter what colour we are. No matter what race we come from. No matter what part of the world we live in. No matter what religion we study, at the end of the day we are all God’s children of the planet earth and we must stick together and build a wall of unity.” -Flav
“I’m about togetherness y’all” -Flav
“If y’all want the world to be a better place right now, it starts with us.” -Flav
“FUCK racism…FUCK separatism!!!” -Flav
“You are the best friend that you got.” -Flav
“With peace and togetherness we would all have so much power. If we all stuck together and built a wall of unity, that shit would be so strong no others could come in and tear down what we got.” -Flav
Truth. They emphasized their message by ending the show with Bob Marley’s “One Love”. I left the show feeling happy, ready to start a protest, and proud of REAL hip-hop. And yelling “Flavvvvvorrr Flavvvvvv!!!” Obviously.