Studio album number 11 and Public Enemy are still strong in the game. In fact, with this collaboration project with one of hip-hop’s most revolutionary voices—the West Coast’s reigning Black Panther Party representative Paris—Chuck D and Flavor Flav capture the essence and strength of their debut Yo! Bum Rush The Show. Now, with ghetto funk provided by Paris, who produces the entirety of this sonic onslaught, social commentary can once again take its place among relevant rap music.
And this is no accident, as references to the Golden-era PE are evident throughout Rebirth of a Nation. Also, you have more give-and-take between Chuck and Flav than in later PE records. Here, Flava’s solo contribution “They Call Me Flavor” harkens back to the brashness of his still hot “Too Much Posse,” while “Plastic Nation” is reminiscent of “Sophisticated Bitch,” addressing the phenomenon of paid flesh reconstruction that has become so popular these days. “Invisible Man,” one of the nicest cuts on the album, has an understated Chuck playing the part of a black man in the inner city, a Mr. Wendell everyman lost in his own neighborhood.
These gems are made all the more effective with the aid of some of hip-hop’s staunchest revolutionary voices. Appearances are made by Kam, Immortal Technique, Dead Prez, and the original Paris collaborators The Conscious Daughters. Even MC Ren gives a scathing performance on the album’s opening track “Raw Shit,” helping to bring an urgency that has seemingly been missing from the music for a while.
The Curtis Mayfield-inspired first single “Can’t Hold Us Back” is as powerful as anything that PE has done previously; even the Jesse Jackson speech inserted into the proceedings is raw. While “Rise” shows that PE’s staple messages of self-empowerment and self-sufficiency are still as important as ever. Other tracks like the Paris helmed “Hard Truth Soldiers,” the critical “Hell No (We Ain’t Alright),” and the title track, as well as the instrumental “Pump The Music, Pump The Sound,” only serves to reinforce this idea.
It’s a mystery why it took so long for Chuck D and Paris to get together, considering their like mindedness, but this project shows that it was well worth the wait. The only complaint is that one of the most underrated lyricists of our time and one of the strongest don’t appear on more tracks together, resulting in the album playing more like a compilation than collaboration. Still, don’t you dare miss this rebirth (available March 7); a nation of millions depends on it.