When: Wed., Dec. 5, 8 p.m. 2012
About a month after All Songs Considered intern Emily White launched uncountable think pieces in June by writing about amassing her digital music library without paying for hardly any of it, NPR's music blog published an equally controversial (though less viral) post by an intern named Austin Cooper. A novice hip-hop fan who'd gotten into the music via the silky sounds of Drake, Cooper wrote about his first listen to Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, which left him "perplexed." He described Chuck D's flow as "rough, rugged, built like a tank—and I'm coming at it expecting a Bentley." Sure, Public Enemy is raw and loud, especially compared to Drake, but I find it beautiful the way the group ropes together so many harsh and potentially antagonistic sounds—cacophonous sirens, jagged horn samples, bone-dry snare hits, Chuck D's satisfyingly weighty and surprisingly bouncy bullhorn of a voice, and, um, Flavor Flav—into hooky, funky jams. PE is still finding new ways to shape pop grooves from aggressive discord, and this year alone it dropped two albums of solid, accessible agitprop rap, Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp and The Evil Empire of Everything (Enemy Records/Spit Digital). The albums are imperfect—though Chuck D is as political as ever, his new lyrics lack the force of his best—but tracks such as "Fame" prove that Public Enemy can still turn social commentary, brittle samples, and brutal beats into sharp songs as accessible as anything in Drake's discography. Maybe PE albums should come with advisory stickers for people whose favorite song is "Over." —Leor Galil Xcian and Dres open.
Price: $35, $30 in advance