Anyone who thinks that Public Enemy are asinine demagogues simply "obviously paid no attention to PE's lyrics and misconstrued their message" as Miss Natalie says in a typical defense of PE's essential hatefulness.
In fact, the message of Public Enemy consists of resentment, belligerence and mindless provocation. They communicate this essentially hateful and negative essence in their words, in the harsh musical tones, and in their videos, stage performances and interviews.
In their most infamous musical statement Chuck arbitrarily declares Elvis a racist, and says to MF him.
Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Motherfuck him and John Wayne. They have their dancers playing with violent militant imagery. They absolutely depicted themselves committing political assassinations in their "By the Time I Get to Arizona" video because they hadn't gotten their way on the damned stupid MLK holiday - as if another holiday solves any problem. Can you IMAGINE the shit storm that would come down on, say, Ted Nugent if he used similar imagery to make some political statement?
In "Welcome to the Terrordome" Chuck D says the rabbis "got me like Jesus" when they complained about being publicly accused by PE of being "responsible for the majority of wickedness in the world."
In fact, nearly every word to come from their mouths professionally communicates resentment and at least the hope of intimidation against the system, ie white folk and Jews.
The words say this clearly. Their whole agitprop sound communicates and amplifies this basic negative attitude. The dancers with Uzis images, the depictions of assassinations, how STUPID I must be to misconstrue this as a hateful bunch of race baiters.
Oh yes, Elvis was a racist "simple and plain" without having done a damned thing to a black man, yet Chuck D et al are great leaders in peace and progress for making vile comments about Jews.
They are also great teachers because they mention the names MLK and Malcolm X in the middle of their hate-filled screeds. And the white boy is the asshole for noticing their wicked hypocrisy.
Note that none of this is a criticism of Public Enemy's MUSIC. That is a separate consideration, on which I would actually give them pretty good marks.