RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Monday, April 30

EWA100 - #52. Public Enemy - Night of the Living Baseheads

52. Public Enemy - Night Of The Living Baseheads (Def Jam/Columbia. 1988. From the LP It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back)

Mike Dikk: All of my early memories of Public Enemy are jumbled into this big ball of media controversy. I remember things like Do The Right Thing becoming a breakthrough movie for Spike Lee simultaneously with “Fight The Power” becoming a breakthrough song for PE. I remember watching “Welcome to the Terrordome” for the first time in this video store I spent a lot of time at after school in 6th and 7th grade. I remember Professer Griff being kicked out of PE for hating Jews (at the time, I was still kind of unclear what a Jew was), and also hating jewelry because it was obviously made by Jews since the first three letters in jewelry are JEW. I remember white people being afraid that such a pro-black album like Fear of A Black Planet sold millions of copies. I remember “I got a letter from the government, the other day...”
Remembering “Night of the Living Baseheads” is a bit trickier for me. I know I saw it sometime shortly after “Fight The Power” broke. It was one of the few rap videos to get regular airplay on MTV and then after that, they’d show every PE video ever made in order to capitalize on PE’s rising stardom. I know I wasn’t even aware of “Night of the Living Baseheads” when I first saw it because I thought it was clearly superior to “Fight The Power” and I wondered why they didn’t play this video instead of “Fight The Power”. Honestly, I didn’t even see that video very many times after that.
I’m not even sure how “Fight The Power” became their breakthrough video. Did it take mainstream media that long to notice how fucking angry these dudes were? They certainly had an arguably angrier back catalog. Maybe that’s what the problem was. Until “Fight The Power”, PE was too angry and the beats were too insane.
I don’t believe that bullshit though. “Fight The Power” had a monumental movie backing it up, and “Night of the Living Baseheads” had nothing, outside of speaking the truth about the crack epidemic. You have to wonder if Flav was thinking, “Man, Chuck needs to chill. This crack shit is dope,” during the recording of this song.
This is definitely my favorite PE song. The Bomb Squad transformed a simple horn sample into a crazy seizure inducing alarm that conjures up all these visions in my head of 1966 style Batman being stuck on a sinking ship, scrambling around and fighting The Penguin’s henchmen with all those colorful action bubbles popping up all over the place.
I know I’m not supposed to be thinking about wacky antics while listening to such a grim slab of street reality, but that’s how my mind works because I am at heart, a dorky goofball. This song may not personally make you think of men in tights, but in my world, it’s one of the highest compliments I can pay to a song.

Raven Mack: I'm from a completely different place on this one, as I can't forget this shit. Like I said in the long-winded intro way back in 2004 when we started this list, my high school was about half-and-half, and plus it had all sorts of racial guilt and shit hanging over it for having shut down the school systems back in the '60s. But our high school dances were always DJed by crazy mad hip hop DJs of the semi-local variety, with names like Blue Thunder and Sam the Beast (Sam even had a regional hit with a go-go influenced song called "Gucci Time" at one point). Farmville is a crazy retarded place, full of talent and hope, but nothing but hopelessness and dead dreams to meet that. Lady of Rage is from there. Fever's, the club in town, is mentioned for hosting weekend parties on the Richmond stations because it's notorious.
Well, I dabbled in all cultures most of my life, getting down with stickweeds of ghetto smoke as well as burning bowls with the prep kids. I like to keep my options open. So I'd go to the school dances, mostly because it was pretty dark and lawless and we'd drink grain alcohol mixed with grape Kool-Aid, and I'd get all fucked up and try to dip my finger in a young vagina, usually only to get more drunk than have adolescent sexual thrills.
Usually, they'd have the dances in the cafeteria with all the shit cleared out, but I remember they had one one time in the actual gym, because you had phys ed teachers checking your shoes upon entrance to make sure you wouldn't fuck up the floors. It might've been Sam the Beast that night, because he was the guy they brought in for the heavyweight school dances, but they threw on the "Night of the Living Baseheads" megamix, and I was probably higher than fuck or drunker than fuck or mesmerized by young pussy, but something was up, and that shit cracked my cranium. I mean, I had heard the original version, but the crazy remix just fucked me up. And they played that shit at a school dance. (You stupid fuckin' kids with your chicken noodle dance bullshit, and your goddamned white t-shirts dragging behind you like a ballgown. And don't you know wearing two earrings means you're a fag?)
I ended up getting the full length PE Nation of Millions tape because this dude Evil Ed who was my main man had quit school at 16 and was working with some slum-ass white dude named Doug from nearby Cumberland, and we rode around one Friday night listening to music and getting high. I found Nation of Millions on the floor under the backseat and asked to pop it in, and whiteboy Doug was all like, "Man, we can't play that shit, that shit's old. The brothers will laugh our ass out the parking lot," while we were cruising. It's funny to remember with retro-minded internerd whiteboy blog upload culture that there was a time where if you weren't listening to the brand new shit, you were a fuckin' herb. But Doug didn't even want that tape, so I asked could I have it, and he said yeah, because it was some old shit. I've still got that exact same tape, although I lost the cover a few years back when I decided I didn't need to keep tape covers or cases anymore and only the shell itself and dumped them all into a couple big grocery bags.
But it is funny, I think some of my resentment of the whole Fear Of A Black Planet era PE is because Nation of Millions is a far superior Black Planet-style record, yet every redneck kid in shop class was jocking "Welcome To The Terrordome" like it was the newest shit that was ever new. The beats on Nation are far more insane, and the lyrics are far more revolutionary, so thinking about white dudes who used the word "nigger" to me regularly reciting the lyrics to "Terrordome" kind of negates any greatness that album might've held. It's more like a Uncle Tom Farrakhan shuck-and-jive routine in my memory bank.
Of course, I'm a white dude typing into the blogosphere about stupid shit about what PE record is more revolutionary. I always get on Chuck D for being a sell-out bitch, but look at me, sitting here typing words on a screen. And I don't even get paid. This is a stupid fuckin' world, and it makes you realize why people like crack.

Public Enemy - Night of the Living Baseheads

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