Public Enemy has long solidified their legacy as one of hip-hop’s most distinctive, influential and controversial rap groups. As the group pushed the boundaries of hip-hop with their own revolutionary approach to politically charged music, they flipped the fast-rising genre flat on its back in the late ‘80s, facing an initial shockwave reaction of both praise and criticism.
While Public Enemy’s early years can be traced back to 1982 when founding members Chuck D and Flavor Flav first met and later collaborated on the single “Public Enemy No. 1.” The group expanded and signed to Def Jam, first cutting their teeth as an opening act for the Beastie Boys. With the release of their 1987 debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show, the self-declared “prophets of rage” soon became revered as an unapologetically self-aware voice of resistance. By the time their second album arrived in 1988, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, the group promptly crossed over to captivate a mainstream audience, with the record going on to peak at No. 42 on the Billboard 200 and chart for 49 weeks straight.
The group’s intricate dynamic—juxtaposed by Chuck D’s unwavering focus on social issues and pro-Black consciousness plus Flavor Flav’s comedic relief—became their trademark. With the stylistically contrasting emcees at the forefront, the group was perfectly accented by the Bomb Squad’s inventive, sample-heavy production. Public Enemy now has over a dozen studio albums in their groundbreaking discography. The most recent, Man Plans God Laughs, arriving in 2015. In addition to over two decades’ worth of touring and other accolades, the group’s earlier albums have since been hailed as some of the most culturally influential works in hip-hop history. Public Enemy was rightfully inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.