Picks and Pans Review: Music on Video
The rap group Public Enemy recently went through a publicity firestorm of substantial proportions after its "minister of information," Professor Griff, betrayed his virulent strain of anti-Semitism during an interview. In this fascinating hour-long video manifesto, Griff, who now has a new job—"supreme allied chief of community relations"—and a mandate to shut up, appears onstage only among the "security" phalanx of roadies who stand around ominously clutching toy submachine guns.
Throughout the tape Public Enemy elaborates on the strident black power philosophy that drives most of its raps. The militant message is reinforced between numbers by documentary footage of Malcolm X on the stump, Southern sheriffs siccing their dogs on civil rights marchers and other scenes related in various ways to racism in this country. However exaggerated Public Enemy's image, their music has always had a vehement potency. This is best shown here on the videos for such songs as "Night of the Living Baseheads" and the Spike Lee-directed "Fight the Power" (from Lee's movie Do the Right Thing).
There is abundant in-concert footage shot in such diverse settings as Japan, Long Island's Nassau Coliseum and Riker's Island, the New York City prison. We also see the group's members in dramatized and candid situations, including one in which rapper Flavor Flav, the band's comic-relief representative, rousts some poor dazed wino off a park bench. Shifting back and forth from black and white to color, this jagged, disjointed video is disturbing but forceful, much in the way Public Enemy itself is. (CMV)
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