Public Enemy made its triumphant return earlier this month with a video for the DJ Premier-assisted “State Of The Union (STFU),” the groundbreaking Hip Hop group’s first new offering since 2017’s Nothing Is Quick In The Desert.
With the cry for racial equality seemingly louder than ever, BET enlisted Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav to reimagine their explosive anthem “Fight The Power” for the annual BET Awards on Sunday night (June 28), opening the ceremony.
But for this version, Public Enemy had some assistance from Nas, Black Thought, The Roots’ Questlove, Rapsody and Enemy Radio’s Jahi. Longtime Public Enemy brethren Professor Griff, DJ Lord and the SW1s were also on deck to contribute to the electric performance.
The visual begins with 12-year-old Keedron Bryant, the former Little Big Shots contestant who went viral singing about being a “young black man” in America shortly after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. For roughly 49 seconds, Bryant sings his heart out about being “hunted as prey” and simply wanting to live.
From there, footage of the Los Angeles protests hit the screen before Chuck comes in with, “The year is 2020/The number, another summer,” a clear play on the original lyrics, “It’s 1989/The number, another summer.”
Nas then takes the spotlight and thanks Public Enemy for laying the foundation for the next generation. He hands the proverbial mic to Rapsody (rocking her Colin Kaepernick jacket) who proceeds to obliterate her verse until Black Thought takes over and passes it to Jahi. Finally, YG comes in and borrows a line from 2Pac’s “Changes.”
“They gave us guns and dope, they wanna stop a king,” he spits. “Try to erase our history, stop and think/History class ain’t tell us about Juneteenth/Cops don’t give a damn about a negro/Pull the the trigger, kill a negro, he’s a hero.”
The overarching theme of the politically-charged video creates a sense of urgency in the same way “State Of The Union” feels like a call-to-action. Speaking to GroovyTracks’s Kyle Eustice, the Hip Hop luminary explained how DJ Premier got onboard — and it involves Tums (sort of).
“When we did the Gods of Rap tour last year, that’s where we found out we were 24-hour Hip Hop heads,” Chuck says. “For example, in the middle of the night, I found out about Tums. I didn’t know what Tums and Rolaids were. I ate late one night and I was like, ‘Ah, man, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to sleep and get up for the gig tomorrow on time and all that because I got food in me.’ And then Premier introduced me to Tums. He said, ‘Take these man. They’re Tums.’ I’m like, ‘Tums? What the fuck is that?’
“So I knock on the door at midnight or 1 a.m. and his room looks like my room. My room is set up with computers and writing and stuff like that, and his room is set up with music. He’s cutting radio shows and I’m cutting radio shows, and I’m like, ‘This dude’s a lifer like I am.’ I always kind of knew, but this dude is doing his thing like I’m doing my thing. That was a beautiful revelation.”
Once they returned to the United States, the collaboration was inevitable. For those who were shocked by Flav’s return, it was only a matter of time. Their relationship has been a roller coaster for decades and despite any perceived fall-outs, they’re always going to be Public Enemy.
“I’m always cool with Flavor, but I’m never going to be cool with Flavor when he don’t do the work,” he says. “That’s what it’s all about. I’m the guy in charge and he’s got to work. Not only is he working, but he’s also putting together the next Public Enemy album after this one’s done.”
When asked what the magic trick was, he replies with a laugh, “Me yelling at him.”
He adds, “Listen, I gave up yelling at him at a certain time. But then I realized yelling at him is the only motivation to get him to understand that he has to do the work that he needs to do — even for himself. Your job is one of the best jobs in the world doing what you do. But it ain’t going to come with no work. You can’t just be in stardom — and that’s what reality TV is. You can just wake up and be a star and not really do no work.”
Public Enemy is expected to release the follow-up to Nothing Is Quick In The Desert later this year. Until then, revisit “State of The Union” below and fight the power.