It's been 20 years since Public Enemy first taught us that hip-hop isn't just dance music. PE's debut, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, released in 1987, proved that rap could also be a powerful voice of dissent.
Chuck D. once called hip-hop the "black CNN." But these days he's pissed at the music's star reporters. On the horn-driven funk of "Harder Than You Think," Chuck blasts, "There's a war going on, so where you all at?" He hasn't sounded this pissed in years. He then teams up with fellow truth-speaker KRS-One on "Sex, Drugs, and Violence." Together, they slam hip-hop's obsession with violence, pointing to the tragic deaths of Tupac, Biggie, and Jam Master Jay. On "Black Is Back," Chuck even takes on BET, dissing the station for its role in spreading negative images of Black America. Flavor Flav is the album's only downside. His recent forays into trashy reality TV contradict PE's messages. Then again, he's barely present, so it's easy to ignore him.
Soulless doesn't surpass the group's classics, but perfect timing allows it to hit just as hard as anything they've ever given us.