One of the most compelling aspects of Public Enemy is the incongruity between Chuck D and hype man Flavor Flav. Chuck D plugs in as the lyrical conscience of the group, imposing his political will with words sharp as razor blades. Flavor Flav, an underrated MC in his own right, fills in the gaps with bleats of praise, braggadocio, and the world famous “Yeeaaaaaaaah booooooooy!”
While Chuck D was politicizing, Flavor Flav was inflicting his brand of reality on the world. A darling of the VH1 circuit, Flav’s Strange Love and Flavor of Love seemed grossly out of place within the context of Public Enemy. But perhaps, in some twisted ironic way, Flav was summing up just what Public Enemy has always been about. In highlighting the contradiction between Chuck D and Flav, we learn more about the group and the message than we ever thought possible.
The live Public Enemy experience highlights this inconsistency in profound ways.
Touring for the 2002 record Revolverlution, Public Enemy headed to The Metro in Melbourne, Australia, and blew the fucking roof off. The concert, captured on DVD, demonstrates that the impact of this iconic rap group knows no borders and knows no limits. The Australian mob is lively, energetic, and into every word, every bar, every beat.
Public Enemy – Revolverlution Tour 2003 rolls through a scorching set. Flanked by two guards with nightsticks, Professor Griff, and a full band including DJ Lord, Chuck D bounces vigorously through “Brothers Gonna Work It Out.” The crew slides into “Welcome to the Terrordome,” showcasing the great interaction between Chuck D and Griff, and Flavor Flav makes his appearance to a roar from the crowd.
All of the hits are here, as Public Enemy throws down for a knockout show that must have been a blast to witness. From “Bring the Noise” to “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” the group lays it down until there’s nothing left. “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “911 is a Joke” ramp up the force in the arena as the band’s politically-charged lyrics add fuel to the fire.
Chuck D enlists the audience’s participation with the Revolverlution cut “Son of a Bush.” Leading the horde in a rhythmic mantra of “Fuck George Bush, Fuck Tony Blair, Fuck John Howard,” Chuck can’t help but smile at the claim the young Aussies put on the last phrase. A call-and-response “Make Love, Fuck War” chant soon follows, charging up the theme of the evening in the haze of the start of the Iraq War.
With Flavor Flav offering some comical contrast to Chuck D’s heated lyrics, the show is a juggernaut of entertainment. Fascinatingly, it’s never hard to take Chuck D sincerely…even when he rhymes next to a grown man wearing a colossal clock and a viking helmet with horns. The lyrical substance never loses its clout and the music is strapping and resolute.
With Public Enemy – Revolverlution Tour 2003, fans can get a time capsule of sorts. In the company of equal parts glitz and essence, cleverness and silliness, panic and magnificence, Public Enemy is one of the groups we need as a society. To see why, watch this DVD.