Hardly a pop play, PE's crucial album "Fear of a Black Planet" was a deep document, a concept album that gave a slice-of-life look at the ultimate disenfranchised community - that of American blacks. It was a thrilling record, one to be listened to endlessly, over and over again, something to throw on when nothing made sense, and at that time, on the eve of first Gulf War and ten years into the Reagan Revolution, little did make sense in the good ol' US of A. Tracy Chapman quietly sang "Talking About a Revolution" that any white suburban punk could relate to and long for, but Public Enemy took that Revolution and showed that rap had so much promise that the divisions between it and punk were aboslutely useless and counter-productive to anyone looking to music for a glimmer of hope for positive change.
To hear Chuck D. sing "Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant nothing to me, that racist was simple and plain..." was to be exposed to the idea that the canon of rock'n'roll had really yielded so few heroes worth looking up to, despite that music clearly had - and has - so much power to change people's minds and attitudes about social issues. This was NOT your father's protest music - nobody inside the PE assault on US sensibilities sounded like they were holding hands and praying for peace - they were laying out a social paradigm and commitment to a world much different from the warzone they were reporting on from the front lines.
Who knows what Public Enemy's *really* been doing since then? Rap and hip-hop has mostly fallen prey to cynical producers and record labels who'd rather promote gangsta rap where every woman is a bitch or a ho, a trend that started with NWA's release of "Straight Outta Compton," another brilliant record that holds the dubious distinction of being the seminal gangsta rap record. "Fear of a Black Planet" did not herald the release of dozens of great rap records that focused on social change and real issues within the American underclass - but it and the other seminal Public Enemy record "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back," remain crucial and significant documents in the history of musics designed to elicit a visceral response for social change within their listeners.
And by some strange quirk of fate, Public Enemy is coming to Santa Fe - on December the 8th to be precise - at the ill-fated Club Alegria. A band that generally plays Coliseums will play at a 250 capacity club on Agua Fria Street. It will be Club Alegria's last show before it (probably) shuts down forever. Truth is generally stranger than fiction in Santa Fe, and this story is no exception. Public Enemy travels with a 14-piece band, and one of those pieces is bass player Brian Hardgroove, a new resident to Santa Fe, who was befriended recently by Alegria co-owner Zia Cross through Hardgroove's radio show on Santa Fe's Indie 101.5 radio station .
Cross asked, "Hey, could your band play my club?" A crazy idea, but it set in motion a show that is gauranteed to be one of the most interesting events in Santa Fe in quite some time. Tickets are $30, and will be available at the Club Alegria Liquor store by the middle of next week. Buy your tickets FAST - this one will sell out and it will be worth every penny, if only to ride the wave of nostalgia in a time of Life that NEEDS CHANGE BAD RIGHT NOW.