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How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? (Audio Version)

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Album Review

Appropriately for the only hip-hop group that's been active for 20 years, cutting records and touring during that entire time, Public Enemy has a long memory. Long enough to be self-referential, as the title of their 2006 Paris collaboration Rebirth of a Nation suggested, but 2007's How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? bubbles over with references to their past: the title alone is an elliptical throwback to "Who Stole the Soul" on Fear of a Black Planet, but there are scores of musical nods to their past here, from the heavy metal shred on "Black Is Back" to how "Between Hard and Rock Place" plays like one of the bridges on Fear of a Black Planet, or the It Takes a Nation of Millions samples on "Can You Hear Me Now." Far from being recycled, these quotes and allusions provide a history that Public Enemy builds upon here, either in the beats or the words. The indictment of gangsta rap on "Sex, Drugs & Violence" or the materialism on "Can You Hear Me Now" carry a greater weight because their past is reflected within the music, offering a reminder of how things have changed in 20 years. Smartly, Public Enemy never tries to run from their middle age, but this isn't stilted like New Whirl Odor. They subtly yet sharply change the productions, expanding their signature dense soundscapes and sometimes departing from it as well, as in the hardcore gangsta of "Amerikan Gangster." Even if it hardly sounds like hip-hop that reaches the charts in 2007, this is ferocious and vital as music, while Chuck D remains one of the greatest lyricists in either rap or pop, as well as one of the more incisive political commentators. And in this context, Flavor Flav loses any of the cartoonish trappings his endless VH1 reality shows have given him, and remains a potent source of comic relief. In that sense, Public Enemy is the same as they ever were, but what's remarkable about How You Sell is how PE grows and matures without abandoning their core identity, proving that it's possible to age as a rap group without turning into an embarrassment. And even if PE doesn't pack the same kind of commercial punch as it used to, it's hard to call an album this spirited and alive irrelevant.

Customer Reviews

Public enemy is da best

Listen to "Harder Than You Think" and "Frankenstar" and you will want to buy this album

Difficult reiew

The problem with public enemy is that their first two albums were so outstandingly brilliant that they were never going to replicate their quality and originality. I remember hearing their first material back in the late 1980s at which time, along with BDP, Eric B and Rakim and the others, they were innovators, political agitators, lyiricists and musicians who couldn't help but break ground. The problem they face now is finding new ground to break ... there ain't much left! Thus, it is a little unfair to judge this album against their best - it would take something truely revolutionary to better that! The Bomb-Squad "wall of noise" that animated PE's classics is sidelined, replaced by DJ-Premier type beats and the odd rock-chant style tune. Okay, perhaps that doesn't do credit to the music, which is good and very good in places. Lyrically Chuck D has lost the flow and energy of his early work, but hey, times change! He has, however, retained his inimitable sound and, as expected, his cutting politics. Favor Flav seems to be ageless and tracks featuring his vocals are excellent and reminiscent of the "old days". One of the best things in this album, especially for a hip-hop old-timer like me is that it is furnished with cuts and lyrics from their tunes from the 1980s. I can't articulate all of the reasons this works, but certainly it reminds us that they haven't forgotten what they were, and mos def it works cos those old tunes were so, so brilliant! If you like small-minded, sellout hip-pop bling I would tell you to stay away, but hey, buy it, educate yourself and find out what hip hop is really about! Not a classic, but a good listen.

HARDER THAN YOU THINK!!!!

If you're going 2 buy any public enemy song/album make sure that "harder than you think" is the first thing you listen to!!! Its my fav song out of allllll of them!!!!!

Biography

Formed: 1982 in Garden City, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Public Enemy rewrote the rules of hip-hop, becoming the most influential and controversial rap group of the late '80s and, for many, the definitive rap group of all time. Building from Run-D.M.C.'s street-oriented beats and Boogie Down Productions' proto-gangsta rhyming, Public Enemy pioneered a variation of hardcore rap that was musically and politically revolutionary. With his powerful, authoritative baritone, lead rapper Chuck D rhymed about all kinds of social problems, particularly those plaguing...
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