The Historic Duo Stay True to Their Roots with a Free LP Release
Thirty years of success in the music industry is no small feat. Public Enemy have stood the test of time with Chuck D’s defiant lines and Flava Flav’s eye for the spotlight, and the group celebrate their 30th anniversary with Nothing is Quick in the Desert. Jay-Z may have dominated hip-hop headlines over the weekend with 4:44, but any Public Enemy release is worthy of recognition, especially one that says as much as this.
Public Enemy built their career around resistance, and resistance is still the central theme on Nothing Is Quick in the Desert. Much of Chuck D’s anger is political, and he ponders how music can create the change he desperately searches for on “Toxic:” “Can a song save the world, in this time of 45 / 45 beeline asking, can hip-hop survive?” He directs more frustration toward President Trump later in the song, venting, “Looks like 45 done lied again / grabbing planets, territories, not to mention women.”
Chuck D pushes for a grassroots movement to address the nation’s political concerns. He urges the people to get vocal to spark the crusade, rapping, “What you know about, whatever you know about / question is, can you get it out?” on “sPEak!” He alludes to the revolution on “So Be It,” arguing that “it” is inside all of us in the line, “Y’all know it, so be it, then be it so / so it be, revolution, then let it be known.”
While much of Chuck D’s concerns are valid, he comes off sounding a bit outdated on songs like “SOC MED Digital Heroin.” Ignoring the possibilities for people to discuss issues and share ideas on Facebook, he lashes out against the idea of social media, saying, “Lost in that SOC MED, report to the fed / so that phone be dead, and the needle in the red.” While ranting on the various changes our society has experienced on “Yesterday Men,” the listener hears, “Kanye marrying Kim, what happened? Bruce Jenner turned fem, what happened?”
Frustration and anger sum up the lyrics on Nothing Is Quick in the Desert, and the hardcore, headbanging beats behind them fit the theme. “Smash the Crowd” has the rap rock fusion popularized by bands like Run D.M.C., and the refrain, “If you can’t join em, know you gotta beat em,” on “If You Can’t Join Em Beat Em” is straight out of a rock ’n’ roll concert. Chuck D said the group strived for that concert-level magnitude when creating Nothing Is Quick in the Desert, and it’s certainly an album suited for high-energy guitar solos played to a screaming crowd. Between headphones, though, it does fall short at times; the “beat them all” chant on “Beat Them All” sounds more like a child’s temper tantrum than a phrase worthy of a chorus. However, as they commemorate their fallen peers in the rap game on “Rest in Beats (Part 1 and 2),” the snarling electric guitar in the background builds the moment excellently. It’s a fitting outro, as the tribute to the old-school holds special weight after the legends criticize the current state of rap music on much of the album.
Overall, Nothing Is Quick in the Desert is a project for the old heads of hip-hop. It’s true to Public Enemy, and shares sentiments toward the current generation of mumble rappers that many in their circle will be quick to echo. There’s a message for the youth as well, however. Few can say what needs to be done to create change in 2017 quite as well as two men who have made a living off of social revolt. The fact that it’s free is only an added bonus, so you’d be wise to take notice of what Public Enemy has to say.
Download the album for free here, and let us know what you think in the comments!