Members of six-time GRAMMY-nominated rap group Public Enemy were the recent guests for an installment of the GRAMMY Museum's An Evening With series. Before an intimate audience at the Museum's Clive Davis Theater, Public Enemy discussed the influence of the Civil Rights movement and the group's evolution and impact. The group also performed a brief set, including "911 Is A Joke," "Don't Believe The Hype" and "Rebel Without A Pause."
"[When we were growing up] we said, 'You know what? We're going to set a nation and the world on fire the same way we got set on fire,'" said Public Enemy's Chuck D. "We didn't know hip-hop was going to come along … [but] we got involved in hip-hop … and worked together to … use this music … that they wanted us to forget … but we never forgot that seed was in us. And when we became Public Enemy it was just bringing all that stuff right back up and seeing somebody 9, 10, 11, and 12 years old loving hip-hop [and] planting that seed back out there."
Considered one the most influential and controversial rap groups of all time, Public Enemy emerged in the late-'80s with lyrics that centered around social issues, particularly those affecting the African-American community. Formed by lead rapper Chuck D while he was studying graphic design at Adelphi University in Long Island, N.Y., Public Enemy grew to include Professor Griff (Richard Griffin), DJ Terminator X (Norman Lee Rogers) and Flavor Flav (William Drayton). Their debut album, Yo! Bum Rush The Show, was released in 1987. Their follow-up album, 1988's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, is considered the group's mainstream breakthrough and peaked in the Top 50 on the Billboard 200.
In 1990 Public Enemy released Fear Of A Black Planet, which climbed to No. 10 on the Billboard 200 on the strength of the No. 1 Rap Singles "911 Is A Joke" and "Fight The Power," the latter of which garnered a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Performance. Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black was released in 1991 and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, their highest-charting album to date, and earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group. Public Enemy's most recent GRAMMY nomination came in 1994 for Best Metal Performance for "Bring The Noise," a track from Apocalypse 91… that was rerecorded with GRAMMY-nominated metal act Anthrax.
Following multiple hiatuses in the mid-'90s, Public Enemy returned with the 1998 soundtrack to the Spike Lee film He Got Game. The soundtrack peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard 200. Their most recent album, How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? was released in 2007.
Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include Spotlight: Daniel Bedingfield (Aug. 6), An Evening With Iris Dement (Aug. 9) and An Evening With The Mavericks (Sept. 5).