I got a letter from the government the other day, I opened and read it, it said they were suckers
December 5, 2007 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos
posted by Artw (72 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's amazing how much better that song is in the versions that DON'T involve Sepultura or Rage Against The Machine.
posted by dersins at 10:49 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, or Tricky.
posted by dersins at 10:50 AM on December 5, 2007


The Tricky version is kick ass.

I love the opening lines for this song.
posted by chunking express at 11:05 AM on December 5, 2007


Seriously, dersins. I think this is one of the songs I absolutely remembered like every single lyric from the first or second time I heard it, just because it was that solid. Fun post.
posted by djspicerack at 11:08 AM on December 5, 2007


I've always been a fan of the original, and while I love Rage with a passion, this is really just a song that that really needs to either be sung by Chuck or Zack, but not both.

I kinda liked the Tricky version, but then, I'm a big fan of a cover that takes the original and does something new and interesting with it.

The less that is said about the Sepultura cover, the better.
posted by quin at 11:10 AM on December 5, 2007


This is my favorite song from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

The Tricky cover is just bad, it makes no sense. Is the singer going to bust out of jail or keep singing the first verse over and over? Is the giraffe in the video a replacement for the S1Ws?

The Sepultura cover was bad too, but at least it made me laugh.
posted by demiurge at 11:15 AM on December 5, 2007


Now they...now...now...now they...now...now..now they ...now, now they got me in a cell. I love how chuck's sample was from a song earlier in the CD (Bring the Noise). Even better was when Rakim sampled himself from the future ("Rakim'a say"), on Follow the Leader. He doesn't actually say "Rakim'll say ... peace" until the end, but the sample is the first thing you hear on the song and the tape.

This is where rap should go in the future. Old songs have been sampled a million times. Sample something from the CD you're going to release in the future. Sample something from somebody else's CD that won't be released for another year or two.

Not only would that be dope, but yet another thing I can point to when trying to explain why Rakim is the greatest rapper ever.

Is the giraffe in the video a replacement for the S1Ws?

No, that's Flav.
posted by cashman at 11:16 AM on December 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


I've always been very partial to the Tricky version, although it's nowhere near as good as the original.

I think what comes out most clearly when comparing the covers to the original is just how much of the overall mood of It Takes A Nation... comes from Terminator X. The panic inducing piano riff, that works as both beat and some melody, is awesome. As much as I like Yo! Bum Rush the Show, his Djing just wasn't nearly as good, and the album wasn't nearly as good.

That said, Chuck D's delivery when he says:

A cell is hell/I'm a rebel so I rebel

has always made it one of my favorite rap couplets.
posted by OmieWise at 11:19 AM on December 5, 2007


The letter in the "in" link is a clever idea.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:22 AM on December 5, 2007


I got a letter from the government the other day. But all it said was that I still owe them for a parking ticket. So I paid it. I'm so ashamed.
posted by The World Famous at 11:25 AM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Every time I open a letter from the government, I rap that line and it's never not true. PE and The Clash man, I worry we'll never see their likes again.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:27 AM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


The letter in the "in" link is a clever idea.

A very clever idea. Not so clever execution, though...
posted by dersins at 11:27 AM on December 5, 2007


(It is the worst track on Maxinquaye.)
posted by mykescipark at 11:30 AM on December 5, 2007


The letter in the "in" link is a clever idea.

I actually mailed one around 2003. Sent it to a good friend who is also a lifelong P.E. fan. It was pretty brief - white envelope, hand-typed on one of those library typewriters to add mystery. The letter itself just said "We're suckas. We want you for our army or whatever." - The Government.

My friend never called to say he got it. When I called him to find out what happened, he thought it was kind of lame. He got a pity-chuckle out of it, but that was it.

I guess maybe my execution of it was lame, but I like to think that secretly it scared the shit out of him before he opened it and he'll just never admit it.
posted by cashman at 11:32 AM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite PE songs. Perhaps one of my favorite rap songs of all time. I bought the Tricky cd just for their cover. Thanks for the post, I didn't know about the Sepultura cover.
posted by cazoo at 11:32 AM on December 5, 2007


It is the worst track on Maxinquaye.

That's not saying much, the album is also kick ass.
posted by chunking express at 11:33 AM on December 5, 2007


That said, Chuck D's delivery when he says:
A cell is hell/I'm a rebel so I rebel
has always made it one of my favorite rap couplets.


Same here (not that I'm that knowledgeable about rap—Public Enemy is about the last group whose records I ran out and bought). Nice post!
posted by languagehat at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2007


The letter itself just said "We're suckas. We want you for our army or whatever." - The Government.

I would have treasured that letter every day of my life.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


(It is the worst track on Maxinquaye.)

Part of the reason I like the cover, honestly, is because it fits so well on the album. I'm not sure how well it stands on its own, but on the album, I remember vividly listening to it when it first came out, and thinking, "That's just perfect."
posted by OmieWise at 11:36 AM on December 5, 2007


Does anybody make rap this potent anymore?
posted by caddis at 11:38 AM on December 5, 2007


Does anybody make rap this potent anymore?

Yes.
posted by chunking express at 11:40 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The World Famous: I got a letter from the government the other day. But all it said was that I still owe them for a parking ticket. So I paid it. I'm so ashamed.

Sorry. It's been done. And it was hilarious:

I got a letter from the dmv the other day
I opened and read it, it said they were suckers
they tried to tell me that my license was suspended
I got offended
for a minute then pretended
that I never even got the damn letter

posted by koeselitz at 11:42 AM on December 5, 2007


Like who, in your humble O, chunking express? I'm all ears *cue the chorus* "Damn Near!"
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:42 AM on December 5, 2007


Great post, thanks!

Do By the Time I Get to Arizona next!
posted by ba at 11:43 AM on December 5, 2007


Also, the Sepultura cover makes sense, since PE had sampled Slayer's "Angel Of Death" on another song on Fear Of A Black Planet called "She Watch Channel Zero."
posted by koeselitz at 11:48 AM on December 5, 2007


Do By the Time I Get to Arizona next!

Another great song.
posted by dersins at 11:49 AM on December 5, 2007


The tricky version kicks serious ass, and if you don't get the giraffes, well, you just don't.
posted by signal at 11:52 AM on December 5, 2007


I refuse to listen to the Rage cover, or anything else that whining bunch of Hollywood show-offs have ever fucking done. They're not fit to set the alarm on Flavor Flav's clock, nor fit even to utter the meaningless lyrics to Flavor Flav's masterwork, "Cold Lampin' With Flavor," of which an excerpted portion of this undeniably awesome song is reprinted below:

You're eatin' death 'cause ya like gittin dirt from da graveyard...
ya put gravy on it
Den ya pick ya teeth with tomb stone chips
And casket cover clips
dead women hips ya do da bump with - bones
Nutin but love bones
Lifestyles of the live-an'-dead
First ya live, then ya dead
died trying ta clock what I said
Now I got a murder rap cause I bust ya cap with Flavor - pure Flavor
We got Magnum Brown, Shoothki - Valoothki
Super-calafraga-hestik-alagoothki
You could put dat in ya don't know what I said book
Took...
look...
yook...
dook...
wook...


Now, I don't know that anybody can dispute that genius. Dante? Look the fuck out. Here's the whole Inferno writ small, and with a giant clock around its neck.
posted by koeselitz at 12:05 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I know about the existence of Public Enemy, and I know they were a huge influence to a lot of musicians I really like, but I had only heard Fight the Power until now. I'm mindblown, those are some serious lyrics. Thx for the post, Artw.
posted by micayetoca at 12:18 PM on December 5, 2007


I'm pretty sure Flavor Flav is/was a manifestation of Baron Samedi.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:18 PM on December 5, 2007


Great post. Now I'm launched on a Tricky kick, and naturally I have a pavlovian need to get very, very high.
posted by everichon at 12:22 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I got a letter from the corporate
The other day
I opened, and read it
It said they were suin'


Coco Beeez!
posted by cashman at 12:30 PM on December 5, 2007


Like who, in your humble O, chunking express? I'm all ears *cue the chorus* "Damn Near!"

I actually think chunking's answer was perfect. It's a pain in the ass question to answer because it's like asking "does anyone make rock as potent as black sabbath any more?" well, yes. a lot of people actually. people have taken sabbath's aggression and pushed it to its limits and beyond, in fact. have you... have you actually heard of metal?

stuff like that. but in the interest of helping out, I'll give a name:

dead prez.

that should be potent enough for you. you may recognize their biggest hit as being the opening theme to chapelle's show.
posted by shmegegge at 12:35 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


They're not fit to set the alarm on Flavor Flav's clock

Now that's cold.
posted by Artw at 12:36 PM on December 5, 2007


Hey! This thread isn't about Zoolander at all!
Oh, black steel...
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:37 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


While I can't imagine anyone arguing that the original isn't one of the best examples of hip hop with a message, I'm also a big fan of the Tricky cover, because it takes the song and removes all context. Yes, of course the song carries when sung by Chuck D; he's an angry African American man with a strong political incentive for saying these things. The question is, does the song hold up when Martina Topley-Bird (who is none of those things) sings it. I feel that it does.

On a side note, I'd like to say that I feel that the opening verses of Rhymefest's Bullet make a really solid if somewhat depressing follow-up to Black Steel.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:38 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


To understand my demands, I gave a warnin' / I wanted the governor, y'all / and plus the warden to know / that I was innocent / because I'm militant / posing a threat, you bet it's fuckin' up the government

I haven't seen this video since about 1991. Thanks for posting this.
posted by alexwoods at 12:41 PM on December 5, 2007


What Parasite said, and same goes for the Trickification of Chill Rob G's "Bad Dream".
posted by everichon at 12:44 PM on December 5, 2007


he thought it was kind of lame. He got a pity-chuckle out of it, but that was it.

Did you picture him giving a damn?
posted by Challahtronix at 12:46 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I actually think chunking's answer was perfect. It's a pain in the ass question to answer because it's like asking "does anyone make rock as potent as black sabbath any more?" well, yes. a lot of people actually. people have taken sabbath's aggression and pushed it to its limits and beyond, in fact. have you... have you actually heard of metal?

stuff like that. but in the interest of helping out, I'll give a name:


Uh, who shot biggie smalls?
If we dont get them, they gonna get us all
Im down for runnin up on them crackers in they city hall

I didn't mean it in a challenging chin out way, but really like, who do you think is potent like PE? Like, let's talk about that shit.

I don't think anyone sounds like PE anymore (especially PE) with that insane density of sound and lyrics. PE at their best was heading in a whole other direction to everyone else. I like dead prez a lot, but they are trapped in the amber of hip-hop convention (although they push against it pretty hard) in a way that PE never was.
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:01 PM on December 5, 2007


well, if we're talking about unconventional potency (though far less politically active) then I'm gonna bring up Atmosphere. that shit is tight, as I've heard kids on the street corners say.
posted by shmegegge at 1:10 PM on December 5, 2007


oh shit, but if we're talking unconventional and dense, holy fuck do we need to bring up aesop rock. shit if I could marry an album I'd marry bazooka tooth.
posted by shmegegge at 1:13 PM on December 5, 2007


Pretty good stuff, and the next few lines down:
Mc’s get a little bit of love and think they hot
Talkin’ bout how much money they got, all y’all records sound the same
I sick of that fake thug, r & b, rap scenario all day on the radio
Same scenes in the video, monotonous material, y’all don’t here me though
These record labels slang our tapes like dope
You can be next in line, and signed, and still be writing rhymes and broke
You would rather have a lexus, some justice, a dream or some substance?
A beamer, a necklace or freedom?

posted by caddis at 1:30 PM on December 5, 2007


nice lyrics, but they still lack the musical potency of PE
posted by caddis at 1:36 PM on December 5, 2007


I think what comes out most clearly when comparing the covers to the original is just how much of the overall mood of It Takes A Nation... comes from Terminator X.

Word up.
posted by Slothrup at 1:37 PM on December 5, 2007


"does anyone make rock as potent as black sabbath any more?" well, yes.

No way dude. Iron Man beats random tuneless emo shit everytime.
posted by Artw at 1:42 PM on December 5, 2007


I think what comes out most clearly when comparing the covers to the original is just how much of the overall mood of It Takes A Nation... comes from Terminator X.

On the other hand, "Terminator X in the Valley of the Jeep Beats" was one of the biggest wastes of ten bucks in my purchasing history.
posted by dersins at 1:44 PM on December 5, 2007


the overall mood of It Takes A Nation... comes from Terminator X

Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad, actually. There was a great interview in Tape Op (Jan. '06) in which Shocklee talked about how each of the songs was actually created by everyone playing samplers at the same time to create the music for those first few PE albums (samplers at the time didn't have a lot of time for recording). If someone screwed up, they had to start over--so if Shocklee missed the bass drum on a part, they had to start over. Terminator X had very little to do with it since he was only the turntablist.
posted by sleepy pete at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Dear god Sepultura really don't know what time it is.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2007


fearfulsymmetry - It's Chaos A.D.! (Disorder unleashed / Starting to burn / Starting to lynch )
posted by Artw at 2:19 PM on December 5, 2007


You and me both Schmegegge.
posted by Dantien at 2:21 PM on December 5, 2007


This song makes it all the more mind-blowing to realise that Professor Griff actually was in the US military. Puts a whole new spin on a lot of what he has to say.

Also, new PE isn't all bad. "Check What You're Listening To" off New Whirl Order sends chills up my spine just thinking about it. I wish Jay Z would sign PE back to Def Jam (assuming they'd be interested), put out another record with some serious bux behind it.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:01 PM on December 5, 2007


Retired S1W's Recalled to Active Duty
posted by jonp72 at 4:10 PM on December 5, 2007


I like Harder Than You Think off the new PE album.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:20 PM on December 5, 2007


This track blew my mind when I first heard it in 1988. I had to pull my car over to the side of the road and rewind the tape, listening to it over and over again because I couldn't believe what I just heard and I didn't know what to think of it. I remember that moment like it was yesterday.

I think OmieWise is right about Terminator X - he was really inspired on this album, possibly unmatched before or since.

Could this track or this video be produced or played on MTV today? I doubt it.

Thanks for the post.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:28 PM on December 5, 2007


Yeah, boyeee.

So glad I had a patient friend in 88-89 to convince me to listen to this. A taste-changing experience.

However, I still like "Apocalypse 91: The Enemy Strikes Black" the best as an album. The Bomb Squad pulled out all the stops.
posted by grubby at 11:05 PM on December 5, 2007


I like Harder Than You Think off the new PE album.

Yeah, for everyone reminiscing about Black Steel and old PE albums: be sure to check out their newest album. How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? is great and has a couple of songs that compare well with Black Steel. My favorite is Can You Hear Me Now?:

Damn if I be some slave again
Got no fake ass friends, no timbs or rims
Sure nuff don't know no designer names
And I never played no video games

I aint got no diamond rings
No bling, bling, no minks
No 2 earrings
No pimp glasses, mugs
Or cups and things
Or whatever the hell they be
Carryin'

Don't treat my highs too high
Or my lows too low
You wont see my soul sold on no video
Don't need no checks to get no chicks
Or be some hypocrite to get you on my
So let the young sing and rap to the young
As long as y'all don't think freedom
Is free to be dumb

posted by letitrain at 11:13 PM on December 5, 2007


for the record, and sorry to ruin christmas and easter for some of you guys....

dj Johnny Juice Risado did all the cuts on these albums. Terminator X was more of a prop (and a good one). Johnny didn´t really fit the role they were looking for. Terminator X couldn´t cut for crap.

I have no idea why people hate on rage, they are one of the best rock acts of the 90s. Zach de la rocha has one of the strongest deliveries since Chuck D. That clip literally gave me goose bumps.
posted by LouieLoco at 5:26 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


its funny, people in brasil love sepultura, they are always on mtv, the lead singer is like the gringo ambassador to the us. If he continues to sing like this I can´t imagine that his throat will last much longer.
posted by LouieLoco at 5:35 AM on December 6, 2007


Wow, well, the hip hop consensus seems to be that Terminator X was a poseur. Next some motherfucker is gonna come in here and tell me that Rakim was not, in fact, worse than a gremlin when fed hip hop after 12!?!
posted by OmieWise at 6:27 AM on December 6, 2007


The savvy reader can draw conclusions about the period in which I listened to hip hop from my scant references.
posted by OmieWise at 6:28 AM on December 6, 2007


Spinderella was a poseur too? I feel like my world is coming apart.
posted by chunking express at 6:37 AM on December 6, 2007


I don't think Terminator X was a poseur, but he was their DJ, not their producer, he was part of the live show, the act. I always loved that he wore the same sunglasses as my grandma, as well. Did you know he owns and runs an Ostrich farm(so I've heard)? What's not to love?
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:11 AM on December 6, 2007


Terminator X it.

OmieWise: Rakim, yes; Eric B, not so much. I wouldn't want him as president, anyway.

Divine_Wino: I saw PE once and not only was Flavor Flav's voice on the DAT they were using for backup (that's right, he didn't really say most of the trademark lines live, just danced around and made faces--sometimes they left his mic on and the voices would clash, which was the only indicator that something was very wrong), but Terminator X mostly just stood there. Don't get me wrong, it was an amazing show and I loved it, but I really felt a little robbed by Flavor.

Almost as much as when I saw Prince Paul, and even knowing full well that he would probably just play records, having him say things like, "This was one of my hits back in '88" (or whenever) before playing a minute of some De La Soul song and then keep moving up chronologically through his catalog. It was a funny show, but his portion was horrible.

An ostrich farm, that's pretty damn amazing.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:45 AM on December 6, 2007


Eric B, not so much. I wouldn't want him as president, anyway.

Maybe Secretary of State.

I always wanted to be an S1W, but I couldn't handle the martial arts training or the bean pies.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:24 PM on December 6, 2007


Seeing PE still ranks as the best show I've ever seen. I saw them in early January 1989 @ the old 9:30 club in DC. It was a small place, packed. Swiz opened, a brilliant booking choice. They were the only DC punk band at the time fronted by a black man, and Shawn Brown was beefy and pissed off. PE came on and the place went wild, it was at a time when the venue hosted Go Go shows every so often, and so there was a nice mix of punk rock (mostly white) kids and hip hop (mostly black) kids. Chuck D was on stage, just feet away, slapping my hand. There was really nowhere for the S1Ws to stand, as the stage was too small. But, back in the back of the stage was Griff's little 2 year old daughter, holding a coloring book and dancing to the way too loud for a toddler music.

Great, great show. I'll be honest and say that I have no idea what X was doing, he was there at the back of the stage, but Flav was not lip synching. There was a kind of halftime show where the S1Ws did a weird "marital arts" demo that looked about as effective as a line dance.

Oh, oh, and as we were driving in to the show (I'm from DC but was away at college and drove down for the show), we were coming in on Georgia Avenue and ahead of us was an Olds 98 that looked for all the world like Chuck D was behind the wheel. It wasn't booming with a trunk of funk, but we were jealous punks.
posted by OmieWise at 12:41 PM on December 6, 2007


I saw them later ('91 or so), so maybe that's why it was so lame. I much rather would have gone to that show, OmieWise.

Oh, and as for Chuck D sightings, a good friend of mine's parents happened to be in the hotel that PE was staying in when they played, so they took a picture with Flav and Chuck D and gave it to my friend. Probably mostly funny to me because my friend's parents were there because their square dancing club had gone on a trip to visit KU.
posted by sleepy pete at 12:55 PM on December 6, 2007


the S1Ws did a weird "marital arts" demo

!
posted by dersins at 1:02 PM on December 6, 2007


I told you, it was weird!
posted by OmieWise at 1:06 PM on December 6, 2007


Oh man, I can just imagine a S1W Marital Arts demo, all side steppin' and coordinated karate chops and synchronized starting deeply into the woman's eyes and a spin kick to apply scented oil. Hooohahahahahahahahhhhaaa!
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:08 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Even better was when Rakim sampled himself from the future

Both the "Rakim'll say peace" and "follow the leader" samples are from "I Know You Got Soul," on their previous album.
posted by hilker at 4:15 PM on December 6, 2007


....have you heard them lately?
posted by deusdiabolus at 2:24 AM on January 2, 2008


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