nellyville-album-anniversary-1498483156 nellyville-album-anniversary-1498483156

'Nellyville': 15 Ways Nelly's Midwest-Spun Recipe Made The Culture Pop

“I think a lot of times when people hear me, they’re like, ‘Well, he’s no Rakim on the mic. But he makes you feel him.’” - Nelly for VIBE, 2004

Cornell “Nelly” Haynes, Jr. had black people bumpin’ Tim McGraw in the hood, so he’s always gon’ be good. Not “good” as in superior mediocrity, but as in legendary. The six-time platinum selling album, Nellyville, stands as a more-than-notable second to its diamond-selling predecessor, Country Grammar. The resurgence of a hypebeast-cultured psalm (one that Nellyville is home to) equates, if not surpasses, that of the OG Run DMC track, “My Adidas.”

More simply put, the now 15-year-old project provides the ideal recipe for an album that literally made the culture pop.

No other hip-hop artist during his run could compare to the impact-charting success combination that Derrty Mo engraved in the early years of the new millennium. His first four albums all matched or exceeded RIAA platinum status. The next rapper to compare to the St. Lunatic would be Ludacris, whose crates hold statuses that don’t surpass the three-time platinum rank.

Many don't credit the STL rapper for the contributions he's made to the culture. But if the culture purveyors don't credit the "5000" rapper for anything, he deserves his chops for impeccable charting success while initiating the harmonized-rhyme trend that remains so popular today. One of the biggest contemporary artists who indulge in this rapping style is Aubrey Drake Graham. And according to a source that will remain unnamed for obvious reasons, “Drake is Nelly’s son”... and that goes for all other singing-a** rappers too. Before the generational-acclaimed mainstream hip-hop savior, Drizzy, transformed from his Degrassi moniker, “Wheelchair Jimmy,” the culture already produced a lyricist who achieved unthought-of mainstream status. Nelly produced one of the best-selling hip-hop albums in 2002 with effortless authenticity and organic “cross-genre” collaborations and sonic infusions. He found himself striking “a nerve in old MC’s wanting a comeback.”

Despite the fact that Haynes’ most major charting feats lie within his debut studio album, Nellyville still holds a monumental place in Nelly’s history.

The New Hypebeast - “Air Force Ones”

Sneakerheads far and wide celebrated the anthem that either catapulted the Swoosh brand to the staple sneaker company or provided the rhythm to a beat Air Force Ones were already marching to. Whether the latter or former are true—I was too young and hype to notice—the classic sneaker model became a principal design that weaved itself into the culture of hip-hop. The Nike-celebrated track embodied all the “scuffed” fears that could f**k up your whole night and an eternal love that forced you to “buy ‘em by the cases.” And the video made our kicks-loving fantasy a reality displayed on boxed televisions across the nation. Visually segmenting the complementing cultures of sports, music, and footwear, the video features St. Louis athletes Marshall Faulk, Torry Hault, D’Marco Farr, Ray Lankford and Ozzie Smith, in addition to Cash Money royalty duo, Big Tymers, Mannie Fresh and Birdman. The influence of the St. Lunatic posse cut still reigns supreme today. Fellow “Gateway City” native, Smino, faithfully played the track on his Nelly break during the finale of his ‘Swanita’ tour in the Missouri city. Not to mention, he’s never without a pair on his two feet, and neither are his crutches.

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Influence On The New Gen

Due to the intro and the eerie superficial comparisons, one may think the sole influential connection to make would be Drake. But two budding colonists of a new generational rap landscape (both of whom hail from St. Louis) list Nelly as a major influence. Arguably, one of hip-hop’s favorite flute-taunting, Future-supported producers of the new gen, Metro Boomin’ reveals in his 2016 spot with The Fader that Nelly was the reason he decided to make rap music. “But he fell in love with Nelly, and that’s when he decided he wanted to make rap music,” the writer said.

Smino’s allegiance to the “Hot In Herre” rapper runs a tad deeper than solely nodding Nelly as his reason why. In the 25-year-old rapper’s interview for his NEXT feature, he told us, “Nelly just carried the city on his back… It meant the world to see somebody going crazy in the Lou like that.” Decked in the boldest colors of Air Force Ones you’ll ever see, Smino trekked across the country this year, ensuring that his crowd would remember the name and lyrics of the man who put his city on the map.

Birth Of The Band-Aid

With Country Grammar, Nelly stamped his mark on the hip-hop scene as the savior for the Lou. But by the time Nellyville came to fruition, he ensured that he put on for the style of his city. Here enters the phenom of the band-aid. The 2000s style trend was born amidst the promotional run for the Nellyville album, but it was more than a fashion statement for the Missouri lyricist. It began fulfilling its practical use, concealing a cut the rapper got playing hoops. It eventually evolved into paying homage to fellow St. Lunatic, City Spud, who was incarcerated at the time. Whether the masses knew the reason behind the bandage or not, sporting his staple “accessory” on the cover of his second studio album started a craze that we’re not too sure anyone would’ve believed would’ve sparked from a first aid item.

Natural “Cross-Genre” Collaborations

The 6x platinum-selling album definitely catered to the popular music culture but maintained unwavering elements of Nelly’s roots. The balance of pop and rap, melded with sounds native to his Midwest origins, propelled the then-27-year-old into collaboration opportunities that weren’t available to those in the realm of gangsta rap that the artists initially wanted to break out under. His first major cross-collaboration was on the remix of *NSYNC’s “Girlfriend.” This was also the first time Haynes was on a track produced by The Neptunes. Other than the expected collaborations with R&B artists like Kelly Rowland (“Dilemma”), Nelly ventured out into collaborations with artists like Justin Timberlake. Their track, “Work It,” catapulted the St. Louis rapper into a space that would allow him to sample sounds that were off limits to his lyrical architect counterparts.

“He changed the game when St. Lunatics and himself came in, it was something we never seen before, their style of rapping, their style, just the way they carried themselves were just so different. People jumped on board and they really took over, that wave was so crazy.” —LaLa

A New Spin On The Party Anthem
As for the sounds that were already well-matriculated into the school of rap, Nelly had a different way of serving them to the world. Party anthems were nothing new, but Haynes explains that his approach to “Hot In Herre” made its mark on untouched territory.

“It’s more of a story of a party record. And I think that’s what did it,” the Nellyville artist began. “Because people can relate to the process of the club… It’s the whole story rather than the typical, ‘Everybody throw your hands up’ or something like that. And I think that’s what lasts longer because nobody had told that story in a party vibe.”

Even though the album had already been submitted, the “Shake Ya Tailfeather” rapper admits that the album was missing the “fuse to the bomb” which would be known as “Dilemma” and the party anthem single. Thanks to Pharrell and a little confirmation from a zealous Busta Rhymes, the world was gifted two times platinum-selling track. Could you imagine Nellyville without it?

The Situationship Track Before Situationships

A memorable contribution to the project was Derrty Mo’s aforementioned single with Kelly Rowland. The Destiny’s Child member joined forces with the Midwest rapper to deliver us a situationship track before the term was even invented.

The 4XL tee and headband-sported video adds just the right amount of dramatization to allow a glimpse into how much of a dilemma Nelly and Kelly’s situationship was. Aside from the fact that Kelly had “a man and a son, though,” the St. Louis rapper just played his position “like a shortstop,” picking up every shot that Kelly swung in his direction—including the Excel spreadsheet text from her Nokia phone. And as the saying goes, “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” By the end of the video, the “Dilemma” that everyone was hoping would end with a romantic collaboration between the two artists, went south.

Although situationship tracks thrived before and after the duo’s single, Nelly told the narrative of their “Dilemma” in a light other than from the perspective of the frustrated and faithful counterpart or the creeping side piece. The narrative set the tone for songs like Fab’s “Situationships” and Kehlani’s “Distractions.” Unsure of whether that’s a good or bad thing, we’re still just as salty as Kelly was when she saw Nelly walking out of the movie theater with another girl.

The Singing-A** Rapper Hybrid

It’s hard to discuss the legacy of anything Nelly without talking about his hybrid rap-singing style. Upon his breakout into the industry, it was hard to find a track where the Missouri-bred artist wasn’t in full hybrid mode like on posse track, “CG 2.” There were also, the rare, but much-appreciated times the rapper broke out his gruff singing voice, which were often met with raspy falsettos as in “Pimp Juice.” Whether we were dealt the former or the latter, the rapper never fell short of incorporating his Midwest authenticity in the mix.

Swag: Truth, Splurging, Pimpin’, Hustle, Sensuality

For your reading convenience, the next five ingredients to the Nellyville recipe have been grouped under the umbrella of swag. When sprinkling the truth behind the STL rapper’s “Say Now,” paired with the somewhat fantasy lifestyle of the intro, “Nellyville,” we’re given a sneak peak into the reality of St. Louis, paired with a reclusive town, Nellyville, that the rapper is creating for his family and loved ones with his newfound success.

Nellyville - 40 acres and a pool/Six bedrooms, full bath with a jacuzz’/Six-car garage, pavement sooth/Both front and back deck ‘nough room to land a jet/And you ain’t reached the city, that’s just the projects” —Nelly, Nellyville

In celebration of his success and “feelin’ good about [himself],” the “Dem Boyz” rapper incorporates mounds of dough so he can “Splurge” a little bit. To go along with his designer name-dropping habits, the Universal Music Group artist poured in a cup of “Pimp Juice” and sensuality to nearly top off his style components. Supplying top-notch player vibes, pressing play on the track entered you into a more lavish ideation of a Hustle & Flow world filled with “Coup DeVilles/With the power seats, leather, wood on [the] wheels” and a dash of Snoop Dogg. Pair the “Pimp Juice” with the perspiration rolling off the bodies of the nearly-bare burning bodies in “Hot in Herre,” two of the remaining three ingredients for the swag component are in. For the final ingredient, grate in an ounce of unapologetic grind to complete the swag component of the recipe and move on to the next ingredient.

A “Diss” That Challenged A Sovereign Power

An album that hosts a diss track catapults its worth solely due to the suspense and hype revolving around the culture of the diss. But, when the media-labeled “pop” rapper debuted Nellyville with perceived and definite diss tracks, “#1” and “Roc The Mic Remix,” respectively, a boycott against the album, described as “the will of God,” debuted right along with it.

KRS-One believed Nelly’s “#1” was a diss to his relevancy due to one verse and fired back for the young rapper challenging “a sovereign power.” The battle-rapping legend certified, “The MC part of it, I can slap him around for days!”

“Ayo, I’m tired of people judgin’ what’s real hip-hop/Half the time you be them n***as who f**kin’ album flop” —Nelly, “#1”

KRS-One’s interpretation of the track was misled by one of his tracks of a similar title, “I’m Still #1,” paired with an issue already brewing from KRS critics that complained about his real-and-fake-hip-hop arguments.

Even though the lyricist provided an explanation and email stating truce to Nelly’s camp, the “Roc The Mic Remix” rapper fired back with an assist from Beanie Sigel, Freeway and Murphy Lee on the Just Blaze-produced track. If the acronymic diss wasn’t enough to infuriate The Blastmaster further, we wonder what news of the six-time platinum status of the album did to the lyrical legend.


One of the most cherished ingredients of any hip-hop album are the skits that glue each track together enhancing the narrative. Nellyville was fun but authentic, so it made sense that the skits mirror that. He recruited comedic sensation, Cedric The Entertainer, and then-MTV host, LaLa. In a time long ago, when physical copies were the main source of sonic pleasure, Cedric and LaLa’s contribution echoed the reality of Nellyville’s sold-out success. And if you let LaLa tell it, “When I see Nelly, we still laugh today: ‘Yo, remember when we were doing Nellyville and we were doing those skits?’”

Success - Charts and Records

Nelly’s ability to touch different audiences while remaining himself at the core was exactly what enabled him to “show these cats how to make these milli-uhns.” All the singles from his sophomore effort touched at least five of Billboard’s charts. “Hot In Herre” and “Dilemma” both peaked at No. 1 on the Hot 100, Pop Songs, Hot Rap Songs, and Radio Songs charts. While “Hot In Herre” peaked at the No. 4 spot for the R&B/Hip-Hop year end ranking.

But what represents Nellyville’s greatest feats are the fact that the project did well in both the mainstream and hip-hop spaces. While Nelly’s second studio album was able to peak at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums lists and get recognition on the accompanying year-end chart, it held a peak position of No. 1 on Billboard’s 200, while clocking in at No. 24 on the year-end ranking. The year-end ranking jumped eight times that of its freshman counterpart.

Nellyville joins an elite group of the best-selling hip-hop artists of all time on Billboard’s G.O.A.T. 200 Albums charts meeting MC Hammer, Slim Shady, OutKast, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne and Kris Kross. But the “Pimp Juice” artist was the only one of the group to have two albums on the list. Not one of the contemporary singing rappers were welcomed on the list. The candor of Nelly’s Midwest origins translated through a hybrid delivery of mainstream tracks is what helped propel Nellyville into the perfect recipe to make the culture pop.

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Rapper Flavor Flav, director Spike Lee and Chuck D of the rap group 'Public Enemy' film a video for their song 'Fight The Power' directed by Spike Lee in 1989 in New York, New York.
Michael Ochs

Music Sermon: How 'Fight The Power' Saved Public Enemy

It was “1989, the number, another summer,” and in New York City, the racial tension was thick as the season’s heat. For New York, it wasn’t just “another summer” - 1989 was a defining year for the city, and for its black and brown youth. The swift persecution of five black and brown boys for the Central Park Jogger attack, with little evidence, is in the national conversation today, but divided the city along racial and class lines that spring. The August murder of 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins by a group of teens in Brooklyn’s Italian-American Bensonhurst neighborhood sparked protests across the city. In the middle of these two events, both of which are tightly woven into the fabric of New York, Spike Lee released one of his most provocative films: the prophetic Do the Right Thing.

At the time, Lee intentionally chose Public Enemy, the most radical group in rap, to set the movie’s tone. Their seminal anthem “Fight the Power” was not only one of hip-hop’s most monumental songs, but also Gen X’s first taste of movement music. The group’s 1987 debut It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back was unlike anything anyone had ever heard in music, let alone the still very new rap genre. Public Enemy’s sophomore album combined the tight flow of battle rappers, the spirit and energy of the Black Power movement, and the aesthetic presentation of the Black Panthers with their paramilitary backing group, Security of the First World (S1W), all packaged up with a logo featuring a black man in a sniper’s crosshairs (can you imagine all of that today? The “If a white group did that…” comments would be insufferable). PE didn’t just start the conscious rap movement, they sparked the gangsta rap movement – NWA’s Straight Outta Compton was directly influenced by Nation of Millions (Chuck sent an early copy of the album to the group, and you feel the inspiration in “F*ck the Police” especially. Along with the defiant social commentary in the lyrics, Dre channeled The Bomb Squad’s sonic chaos in the track. Cube went on to work with The Bomb Squad for his solo debut).

“When I wrote the script for Do the Right Thing, every time when the Radio Raheem character showed up, he had music blasting,” Lee told Rolling Stone. “I wanted Public Enemy.”

But at the time of the movie’s release, PE had technically broken up; sidelined by controversy impacting their reputation not just domestically, but abroad. On June 29, one day before Do the Right Thing hit theaters, Russell Simmons announced: ''Public Enemy is disbanding for an indefinite period.”


Public Enemy was made up of distinctively different personalities: Chuck D, the leader, the voice, and the “adult” of the group; Flava Flav, the blueprint for hip-hop hype men and comedic levity to Chuck’s booming gravity; and Professor Griff, the “Minister of Information,” a black Muslim who didn’t actually observe any of the tenants of Islam but subscribed to the most incendiary rhetoric The Nation of Islam offered. As the Minister of Information, Griff sometimes spoke publicly on the group’s behalf and had been known to stir up controversy with comments that were just over the line, but not far enough to cause a mainstream firestorm. Then, on May 22, 1989, he sat down with reporter (and later writer for The Wire and Treme) David Mills for an interview with The Washington Times. Because he was talking to another black man, Griff got way into his bag, and sh*t went left, quickly.

“Griff opined that ‘the majority of them [i.e., Jews]’ are responsible for ‘the majority of the wickedness that goes on across the globe,” recounted LA Times rock critic Robert Cristgau in his summation of the controversy, properly titled “The Sh*t Storm.” “He… raved about how ‘the Jews finance these experiments on AIDS with black people in South Africa,’ observed that ‘the Jews have their hands right around Bush's throat,’ and concluded that he must be speaking the truth because if he wasn't the Jew who owned CBS would long since have forced him, Griff, out of the group.” It was a mess, but it still flew largely under the radar until the story was picked up by The Village Voice (pours out liquor). You know how the timeline gets when there’s controversy? Imagine that in real life amongst the music community and media.

Even the most esteemed music critics had praised Nation of Millions, many even included the LP on their 1987 Album of the Year lists. Now they were being called on to defend or condemn the group they’d once praised.

Nelson George was one of the lone hip hop writers at the time aside from Harry Allen (which is why you will always find Nelson George references in my work), and as a black man in a space where we were still fighting for voice and position, he was careful to distinguish Griff’s comments from what the group stood for. "There's no question they say Farrakhan's a prophet," George told the LA Times at the time, "but Chuck D was very specific about what they like about Farrakhan. That Prof. Griff is a (jerk) doesn't invalidate the record. And Public Enemy was signed by Rick Rubin, who is Jewish, and one of their first managers is Jewish, as is the photographer that shot most of their album cover pictures, and (so is) their publicist Bill Adler."

Chuck was torn. He first backed Griff, then seperated the group’s stance from Griff’s personal stance, then banned Griff from speaking on behald of PE, before finally condemning Griff and apologizing for his comments, stating: “We’re not anti-Jewish or anti-anyone at all. We're pro-black. To use the same mechanism that you're fighting against definitely is wrong. We don't stand for hatred. We're not here to make enemies. We're apologizing to anyone who might be offended by Griff's remarks.” Griff was expelled from the group on June 21, 1989.

The continued pressure from the Jewish Defense Organization – including calls to boycott Do the Right Thing, Def Jam and Columbia/CBS, who distributed the group’s albums, and Rick Rubin even though he wasn’t involved with the group anymore – finally wore Chuck out. He told Kurt Loder during an MTV interview that the group was done. ''He (Griff) transferred misinformation, and it was just wrong. You can`t back it,” he explained. “But we got sandbagged, and being as I got sandbagged, the group is over as of today. We`re outta here. We`re stepping out of the music business as a boycott . . . against the music industry, management, record companies (and) the industry retailers.”

In Robert Cristgau’s earlier-referenced article, written shortly after that MTV interview, he opined of PE’s future: “…it's reasonable to hope that three or six or nine months down the road, after Spike Lee returns to the set and Chuck's label flops and Flavor Flav staggers under the weight of his own album, PE will regroup.”

Instead, it only took about a month. “Fight the Power” became a hit; The song and movie combined birthed one of the biggest cultural statements of the decade.


Spike told Hank Shocklee (of The Bomb Squad, Public Enemy’s famed production unit) and Chuck he wanted an anthem, but already had an idea in mind. “Spike originally proposed a rap version of a negro spiritual, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” to be produced by someone else and with just Chuck D rapping,” Shocklee told the Guardian. “I was like: ‘No way.’” Hank found an example right out of Do the Right Thing’s world to make his point. “We were in Spike’s office on DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn, by a busy intersection. I pulled down his window, stuck his head out, and was like: ‘Yo man, you’ve got to think about this record as being something played out of these cars going by.’” Spike knew he wanted the power of Chuck’s voice, but Chuck and Shocklee knew that the moment called for something bigger, sonically. Gen X is now considered a generation without a social movement. Boomers were engaged in the Civil Rights Movement, Millennials led Black Lives Matter, Gen X’ers were chillin’ - except we weren’t. Police brutality, the overcriminalization of black and brown people (hi, stop-and-frisk), the rise of the crack epidemic… these were our issues, and hip-hop was our movement: our way to give voice to the systemic injustices and bleak realities black people faced daily.

With “Fight the Power,” Chuck, Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad captured the energy of black resistance in a rare, perfect way – sonically and lyrically. It sounded aggressive, it sounded urgent, it sounded defiant, it sounded confident. It was the protest music of black Gen X’ers. “The song could have gone a lot softer, a lot neater, a lot tighter – but it would have lost the chaos,” Shocklee went on to explain. “When something is organized and aligned, it represents passivity. But any resistance, any struggle to overcome, is going to be chaotic. So the hardest part was making sure the track wasn’t monotonous. Lots of the samples appear only once, and a lot of stuff isn’t perfectly in time. I didn’t just want white noise and black noise – I wanted pink noise and brown noise!”

The title and thematic direction came from Ron Isley and his brothers’ 1975 song of the same name. The song struck a chord with 15-year-old Chuck D. Last year, Chuck and Ernie Isley (who, by the way, is the most criminally underrated guitar player in music history) compared notes on the two "Fight the Power's" for NPR: “I was 15 years old, so it was ingrained in me, but it was a record that I thought represented us. ‘I tried to play my music, they say my music's too loud’: That spoke loud to me,” Chuck shared with Ernie. “And I didn't even curse at the time, but that was the first time I ever heard a curse on a record.”

I can't play my music They say my music's too loud I kept talkin about it I got the big run around When I rolled with the punches I got knocked on the ground By all this bullsh*t goin’ down

Like the 1989 version, The Isleys’ joint catches you up in the undeniable bop of the track even while delivering power through the lyrics.

PE’s “Fight the Power” was also a big f*ck you to “American” pop culture, disparaging white icons Elvis and John Wayne, who in the late ‘80s were both damn near deified. It was a declaration that we black folks have our own history and culture.

'Cause I'm Black and I'm proud I'm ready and hyped plus I'm amped Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps Sample a look back you look and find Nothing but rednecks for four hundred years if you check

A song that feels and sounds like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” will never happen again, because the Bomb Squad’s trademark sampling methods would be a legal headache and financially crippling today thanks to changes in copyright laws spurred by the growing rap industry in 1991. “It was a totally different process from today, when cats listen to a finished track then put rhymes on top – that separates emotion and content,” Shocklee shared when discussing how the song came to be. “All the samples have to work with Chuck’s emotion. We’d have to find something from all our hundreds of records to fill a second, and it all had to be done by ear, without computers or visual aids.”


I don’t think I’ve ever seen a song used as many times as “Fight the Power” is in Do the Right Thing. I can’t even tell you what other song is on the soundtrack without looking it up. Honestly, the entire soundtrack should have just been a “Fight the Power” maxi-single. Also, shout out to one of the most iconic opening title sequences ever. It’s like James Bond level. Better.

The song and the movie are inextricably linked. As mentioned earlier, Spike wanted “Fight the Power” playing whenever we saw Radio Raheem. Since Raheem is the movie’s pivotal character, PE underscored some of the movie’s most powerful moments.

Shocklee explained to Rolling Stone why using Radio Raheem as the vehicle for the song worked so well. “The track intensified the story. When Radio Raheem was with the boombox playing that song, that’s what was happening at that time, exactly. You could have walked out the theater and into a pizza shop, and that would have happened at that moment.”

Even before they retreated into self-imposed career exile, Public Enemy weren’t radio artists. The film was their only real promotional vehicle for the single – but what a vehicle. “When I heard Spike Lee put it 20 times in the movie, I was like, pssh,” he shared with Rolling Stone. “We realized early that film was probably going to be our outlet to deliver sh*t. We couldn’t rely on radio.” While the group laid low, “Fight the Power” shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Rap chart and cracked the Top 20 on the Hip-Hop and R&B chart (Hammer would break down the barrier for rap on the Hot 100 and Pop charts about a year later). In August, PE came out of “retirement” to announce their renowned third album, Fear of a Black Planet.


The music video for “Fight the Power” goes down as one of the most satisfying visuals for a song, ever. In the history of music videos. It is the perfect accompaniment to the track’s energy and power. For the video, Spike created a modern-day version of the March on Washington in Brooklyn, which he called "The Young People's March on Brooklyn to End Racial Violence,” featuring Public Enemy. The march was Chuck’s idea, and Spike did the video as a favor, on the strength of them letting him use “Fight the Power” for free. If Chuck D wasn’t already firmly positioned as hip-hop’s political leader, watching him leading throngs of young people through Bed-Stuy did the trick. “It was like a rose really sprouted in Brooklyn,” he later shared about the day. “It was seriously a black movement of just being able to stand up and demand that the systems and the powers that be don’t roll you over. And this was a threat to America and it was a threat to the record companies at the time. That video was really powerful.”

Flav added, “That was one of the most craziest days of my life. But it was so amazing. It was my first time ever really doing a video shoot… (W)e had Jesse Jackson there, Al Sharpton was there, Tawana Brawley was in the video, too, as well. And the whole of Bedford-Stuyvesant…I would give anything to live that day one more time.”

Like the movie and the song, the video is on multiple “best of all time” lists.

While echoes of the controversy of 1989 followed PE through the early ‘90s, the sheer power of Fear of a Black Planet prevented it from slowing them down in any way. Nation of Millions blew the music community away, but Fear of a Black Planet surpassed it.

This has nothing to do with anything, really, except that I want y’all to peep how completely off the chain Flav is in this interview. Chuck and Fab 5 Freddie just gave up.


The legacy and impact of Do the Right Thing are perhaps immeasurable. The movie garnered two Oscar nominations, including Best Original Screenplay, was deemed one of the most important movies of the year, then later one of the most important of the decade, and is still largely considered to be Spike’s greatest and most complete work. It inspired a new generation of filmmakers, including John Singleton, who went home and wrote Boyz N The Hood after seeing the film. Radio Raheem’s boombox is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). “Fight the Power” is still one of the most important songs in hip-hop, has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and is ranked by multiple lists as one of the greatest songs in music, period. Public Enemy went on to be inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. But as I said before, the power is in the two - movie and song - together. It’s hamburger and bun. Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and cereal. Neither are as strong if they’d been presented to the world without the other.

In any other year, the movie and song just wouldn’t have hit the same. Do the Right Thing was one of the first “day-in-the-life” black movies that showcased the routine and connectivity of community - how we rely on each other, how we interact with each other, and the line between business owners integrating with the community and just making money from the community. “Fight the Power” came just as conscious rap was gaining a commercial foothold. Despite the group’s assumptions, the song did get radio play - lots of it. A year earlier, radio wouldn’t have been ready. A year later, the song wouldn’t have felt as special. Thirty years later, the movie and track aren’t just a snapshot of 1989, but they both still feel incredibly relevant and accurate. But without this partnership, the self-proclaimed Rolling Stones of hip-hop may have had an entirely different musical legacy - one smashed to bits the way Sal smashed Raheem’s boombox. Instead, they proved the galvanizing power hip-hop could have. 1989 was not just another summer; it sparked a hip-hop revolution.


#MusicSermon is a weekly series by Naima Cochrane that highlights the under-acknowledged and under-appreciated urban artists and sub-genres from the '90s and earlier. The series seeks to tell unknown and/or forgotten stories that connect the dots between current music, culture and the foundations of the past.

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Tobe Nwigwe wowed the crowd with a live musical performance at the McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden experience at BETX.
BET Expereience

Tobe Nwigwe's Southern Raps At The BET Experience Are Marinaded With Purpose

Thanks to Tobe Nwigwe, Houston’s presence could not be denied at this year’s batch of BET Experience events in Los Angeles. Sporting his signature sock/slippers combo and a mic in his hand, the Nigerian-American storyteller took the stage Friday (June 21) to perform some of his most revolutionary and captivating tracks.

There’s the lyrical strike that is “Ten Toes” and “Against the Grain” made popular from his #GetTwistedSundays series, a keen exploration of Houston. With a new batch of ears and hearts open to his music, the Nigerian-American rapper is at ease with his new purpose.

“I understand my purpose now. I understand that to do what I’m doing now is all of my life,” Nwigwe tells VIBE before taking the stage for McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden event which showcases music’s ability to continue the cultural narratives of the Black experience in America.

Before he was shining on BET Cyphers, performing at the Roots Picnic or delivering projects like Three Originals, Nwigwe had dreams of entering the NFL. Those plans were redirected after a physical injury during his senior year at the University of North Texas. The incident served as a catalyst for the rapper to transform his energy into purposeful rap for his hometown, Houston.

“That’s why I’m due diligent, persistent, and focused on what I’m doing because I understand the call of my life,” he added while speaking about his partnership with McDonald’s platform. “I just really like what the Black and Positively Golden theme is. Being bold, being brilliant, being resilient. I like the black community, I love it. I feel like black people are the most influential people in the world.”


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A post shared by Tobe Nwigwe (@tobenwigwe) on Jun 2, 2019 at 8:12am PDT

Houston’s re-emergence into mainstream hip hop culture, from a cultural enclave to an emergent regional capital in Southern rap lineage is evident acts like Megan Thee Stallion and Tobe Nwigwe. Draped in diasporic apparel and perched on a horse in the Texas countryside, Nwigwe is representative of the city’s rich ethnic demographic, and fusion of two Black sub-cultures into one told through the oral traditions of hip hop.

Nwigwe is currently dressed in all black, but it wouldn’t be without purpose. In small but noticeable text, his shirt says, “Mental Health is Crucial.” The fit speaks highly of intentions as an advocate for black youth. Nwigwe’s love for his community extends beyond the reaches of rap into the worlds of non-profit advocacy and mentorship. He’s the co-founder of TeamGINI, “Gini Bu Nkpa Gi?,” an Igbo saying meaning, “What’s Your Purpose?”

“I understand what people where I come from need,” he explains. “I feel that. I understand the void, so I do my best to play a role in being a part of the solution.”

His spiritual beliefs were highlighted in The Rap Map: Meet 5 Talented Artists From Houston featured on DJBooth. An ideology rooted in community-based upliftment drew motivational speaker Eric Thomas to sign Nwigwe for ETA Records, and establish a partnership focused on the implementation of solutions-focused rap for youth in neighborhoods across the United States, impacted by the terrors of community disinvestment, and high rates of violence.

Nwigwe recalled the outpouring of love experienced at one of his recent hometown shows. “I had the biggest crowd ever on my court at home," he proudly boasted in a Houston drawl. "I had over 3,000 people at a show with no openers, none of that. The mayor came out and gave me a dap, so it’s just a lot of love at home. There's like nothing better than being received well in your hometown, where you grew up and got all your influence from. It’s, wherever I go I wear Alief, I wear SWAT, I wear Houston on me like a badge of honor.”

His authenticity is felt throughout his setlist, a musical arrangement with a live band, background vocals from Beaumont-raised LHITNEY, and surprise guest performance from NELL, a frequent collaborator and producer on his music projects.

Nwigwe's purpose for the weekend was complete–he brought Houston to Los Angeles. “Make purpose popular,” Nwigwe’s mantra for his musicality sounds like a tagline from your local conscious rapper, but the intention in how the Houston rapper uses music as a space for community messaging is rooted in genuine Houston hospitality.

Stream Nwigwe’s latest release, “Searching” below.

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Queen Of Hip-Hop Soul And Hits: 15 Of Mary J. Blige's Best Songs

Since bursting onto the scene in 1992 asking us What’s the 411?, Mary J. Blige has kept her foot on our necks and provided the soundtrack for most of our lives. Although she’s faced her fair share of heartaches, heartbreaks, and hardships, Mary never let her personal life or the pressures of the music industry keep her from becoming a master of her craft. Who knew the little girl from Yonkers would go on to be not just music but entertainment royalty? She has secured numerous endorsement deals with M.A.C., Pepsi, Target and more while also conquering both the small and big screen, even being nominated for two Academy Awards for her role in the critically-acclaimed film, Mudbound. After countless nominations over the years for categories like Best R&B Artist and Best song, an unprecedented number of Billboard and Grammy Awards, over 75 million records sold worldwide and so much more, she shows no signs of stopping.

This Sunday (June 23), she will add to her repertoire when she’s honored at the 19th annual BET Awards ceremony with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her exceptional body of work across genres and industries. And the undisputed ESSENCE Festival favorite will also hit New Orleans to commemorate the festival’s 25th anniversary while also celebrating 25 years of her iconic 1994 album, My Life.

To honor the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul and her indelible catalogue of hits, let’s take a look at 15 of our favorite MJB songs through the years.

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