What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?
Def Jam Recordings
Despite kind-of-firing-kind-of-not-firing Flavor Flav in March of this year, east coast hip hop pioneers Public Enemy are back; perhaps better than they have been in the past two decades, with their latest album, What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down. Following their 2017 release, Nothing Is Quick In The Desert, they reunited Chuck D and Flavor Flav, backed by DJ Lord, have teamed up with an all-star cast of hip hop royalty, including Cypress Hill, Mike D & Ad Rock (Beastie Boys), Nas, Black Thought & Questlove (The Roots), Ice-T, and George Clinton, among many others, to deliver one of their strongest records since the ‘90s.
Opening with the haunting spoken word of Clinton on “When The Gird Go Down”, Public Enemy set the tone when they come alive on “GRID”, a technological dystopia track inspired by current events and 1984. A busy mix reminiscent of The Bomb Squad, paired with a catchy, chorus, a slick verse from Cypress Hill’s B-Real, and some funky guitars set the tone perfectly: Public Enemy are back and they’re relentless. This is only furthered with the lead single, “State Of The Union (STFU)”. The fiery political track, featuring DJ Premier, is aimed at Trump and is the anti-establishment anthem 2020 needed. The track barely stops short of shooting Trump down in the middle of Fifth Avenue – just barely.
The second single, a rerecorded version of their 1989 hit “Fight The Power”, raises the bar even higher. Featuring Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, YG, Jahi, and Questlove, “Fight The Power: Remix 2020” proves the timelessness, social relevance, and raw power of Public Enemy over 30 years later. The remix is slick and driven by a dirty groove, and delivers a refreshing take on a hip hop classic. Of the 16 tracks on What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down, Public Enemy truly shines without a single weak song. Highlights include the complete ‘80s throwback, “Public Enemy Number Won” (featuring Mike D, Ad Rock, and Run-DMC), the hard-hitting “Smash The Crowd” (featuring Ice-T and PMD), the unstoppable “Go At It” (featuring Jahi), and the handful of tracks without featured artists: “Toxic”, “Beat Them All”, and “R.I.P. Blackat”.
What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down is an immediate hip hop classic from a group who have proved to be just as culturally significant in 2020 as they were in the ‘80s. Public Enemy delivers a refreshingly vintage take on hip hop–something that as a whole seems absent from the genre–as they bring a sense of funk, groove, and even rock, to rich and densely stacked arrangements for Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and their featured artists to spit slick, smooth, and biting bars over. Front to back, What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down is a banger that can stand alongside some of Public Enemy’s strongest and most revered classic records.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: PUBLIC ENEMY – WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE GRID GOES DOWN?