Public Enemy - Man Plans God Laughs (LP)
What happens to the victorious army when they've won the war but lost the Peace? How does a prophet continue to refine the message when its truth is so widely understood and accepted that it's changed the world around it? Can a band maintain its position at the vanguard of a musical revolution when everyone who came up with them thinks the fight is over?
Ask Chuck D.
For 30 years, Public Enemy have not only been first to the barricades to defend the community they're part of and the culture they helped shape - Chuck and his band have written the rule book on how to stay two steps ahead. In 1985 they bum-rushed the rap show and turned this new musical art form from a curiosity to a powerful political tool. At the end of the 20th century they wrested control of the means of production, helping to consign the music industry's business model to history's digital dustbin. So it's no surprise that in 2015, the noise the band is bringing rings loud and with clarity on matters their competitors and contemporaries haven't even started to think about.
Chuck and PE led the fight for the rights of the artist against the corporation, and by any reckoning they scored a significant victory. But the win came at a cost. Today, anyone can make a hit that's heard and loved around the globe: but it's still the corporations that are making the money. Those who know, know who: where it was once about CBS, RCA and EMI, today's music-biz corporateplantationopolies are Apple, Google and Facebook. The pigs are walking as tall as the men, but it's impossible to say which is which.
God certainly laughs at anyone who makes plans, particularly if those plans involve music and technology. And the law of unintended consequences applies equally to the rebel as to the oppressor. Public Enemy changed the world, and they helped change the music business. With this record, they remind us that revolutions never end - that for every victory to savour there's always someone new to fight. One of those targets includes what Chuck calls 'corplantations.' On 'Those Who Know Know Who,' Chuck bellows: "Flipping the news got the people confused/Abusing all the rhythm, leaving us with the damn blues." Chuck says, "I feel like the government controls the media and the people are not being fed the truth. The subtitle for Yo! Bum Rush The Show was 'The Government's Responsible.' Today, it's like 'The Governments Are All Responsible.'"
And speaking of album titles, Chuck says Man Plans God Laughs was inspired by a comment that the legendary Dr. Julius Erving made in a documentary for which Chuck provided the voiceover. "When Dr. J said it, he was referring to all his plans for him and his brother, and then his brother passed away. "That spoke volumes." Chuck says, "The message I got from that was, 'Stay humble.'" He adds that "the sonics on that track were inspired by Run The Jewels, Yeezus and Kendrick Lamar's latest works."
It's a good bet that the track Mine Again will resonate with PE's African-American constituency. It stands as one of the album's most powerful jams. Chuck agrees that Mine Again is about an African-American having a conversation with himself about his African roots and sounding conflicted about his identity.
"I wrote the song a decade ago after experiencing Africa and getting a handle on all the turmoil going down in the motherland. Yes I'm conflicted because it's been a continent of conflict." The jam was co-written and performed by James Bomb of the S1Ws who has written a few poems over the years, he says.
"I guided him to write within the context of a conflicted person going back to his roots. To claim the motherland for the soul to provide service of helping folks in a war ravaged nation was the core of the song."
Inside a reinvention of the PE sound - the result of the latest collaboration between the band and long-time producer/musical innovator Gary G Wiz - this album nods back to the anthems of the past as it constructs analyses of the present that can help shape our understanding of the future. Once again, Chuck and his band reassure us that there's nobody else we can count on to stand up for those values - political, personal, creative - that separate the conscious from the consumptive; no band better placed to keep on fighting the powers that be.
NO SYMPATHY FROM THE DEVIL
ME TO WE
MAN PLANS GOD LAUGHS
GIVE PEACE A DAMN
THOSE WHO KNOW KNOW WHO
HONKY TALK RULES
LOST IN SPACE MUSIC
PRAISE THE LOUD
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