ABC, Glasgow, Tue 27 May
Do you know the one about the ahead-of-his-time internet entrepreneur, the clock-obsessed reality TV star, and the boyish looking, alleged anti-Semite? No punch line here, just excerpts from the long and vivid history of one of hip hop’s most irresistible forces. A lot has happened since the most revolutionary and incendiary rap group in history – that’s Public Enemy to you and me – released what has widely, and rightly, been proclaimed to be one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, their 1988 sophomore opus It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. We’ve had Chuck D shrewdly abandoning record labels in favour of the web five years before everyone else did, Flavour Flav becoming hip hop’s small screen Hugh Hefner in his reality show Flavour of Love, and Professor Griff? Well, he should probably just watch his mouth.
Sure, times have changed, and the rap game is barely recognisable now from the bare, spare, gnarly beast that was only just into its awkward teenage years by the time Nation of Millions . . . was unleashed, but Chuck D and his squad showed rap’s possibilities, both sonically and politically, and set a blueprint for much of what followed. Where would Kanye West and The RZA be without The Bomb Squad’s incendiary James Brown-sampling ballistics? Or everyone from A Tribe Called Quest to Ice Cube without Chuck’s deft verbal assuages? Lest we forget, their collaborations with Anthrax and their ill-fated tour of America with The Sisters of Mercy pioneered the notion of rap/rock crossover.
This show may be part of the Don’t Look Back series – previous combatants included The Stooges, Teenage Fanclub and Slint all playing their most revered albums – but is also celebrating the present with a substantial line-up in support: everyone’s favourite eccentric porno lyrical surrealist Kool Keith with Kutmaster Kurt, tripped out rap geeks Edan and Dagha and the newly reunited Antipop Consortium filling out this bulbous evening of tremulous hip hop magic.