Fear of a Black Planet—Public Enemy (1990)
“Not only was there pressure to make a follow-up to It Takes A Nation…,there was pressure on us especially after 1989 and the success of ‘Fight The Power.’ We were going through accusations of being Anti-Semitic (In 1989, when P.E. was asked their opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Professor Griff suggested that ‘Jews are responsible for the majority of the wickedness of the world.’ Chuck D later apologized for his group member’s controversial statements and fired Griff, who over a year later was let back into P.E.)
It was crazy. A lot of factions were coming at us. We were intertwined with a lot of people who were Jewish. So you can’t make a political statement and everybody nod their heads because they feel good about it. The truth is going to fall on everybody. I think the choice of words [from Griff] were totally wrong and inaccurate. But the whole thing was we were talking about black folks too, but now we can’t talk about you?
It’s one of those things that got us into some other place. And it should have been handled better by myself earlier on in the game. There was no anti-religion or race when it came to Public Enemy, but we were going to tell you exactly how we felt and what was going down. And at that time, this was jarring coming from a whole bunch of black mouths that you think were only supposed to be talking about bitches, our dicks and all kinds of stupid shit like that. That was acceptable. Even if you fast forward right now, you see what’s acceptable. You see who are the lawyers and accountants raking in the money for this behavior that we co-sign.
We weren’t trying to waste any time. We had ‘Fight The Power,’ ‘there was ‘Welcome to the Terrordome,’ which had its own thing going on. And then you had Flava Flav coming through like a champ. He hit it right out of the park with ‘911 Is A Joke.’ Flav happened to be funny. But even being a character, he also happened to be saying something that was very political and in a video that backed that up. Chuck Stone shot the ‘911’ video and Hank designed it. It was the easiest video I have ever had to do. I never liked doing videos, but doing ‘911’ I showed up in the end and it was a piece of cake. That song and video really showed that P.E. was truly a team.
Fear Of A Black Planet was one of the first times that hip-hop was getting scrutinized word for word and line for line on a political level. Our job was to come up with something that people couldn’t find. We wanted to dazzle and amaze and deliver something totally different from It Takes A Nation… The biggest thing that Public Enemy proved in the ‘80s and early ‘90s that made us different from any other rap group was that once we found something that worked we were going to throw it away. We never repeated ourselves. That’s what the rock & rollers did. Rappers and other black music artists, because of the way we have been treated as a people in this Western world, we always get on our knees and look to be loved. We look for love in all the wrong places. But our attitude was, ‘Fuck pleasing!’ This is what it is and if you don’t like it then fuck you too.
We were all very strong in our beliefs. Our whole goal with Fear of a Black Planet was to make to Un-Nation record. If Nations of Millions…was our nationalistic record, then we said Fear of a Black Planet was going to be our world, international record where you have to be bigger than just being an American. It’s already a black planet; join your people around the planet and stop being so closed-minded. We new it would be a terrible mistake trying to make It Takes A Nation…again.”