Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Certain Songs #1674: Public Enemy – “Bring The Noise” | Medialoper

Album: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Year: 1987

. . .

Holy fuck, this song!!

Public Enemy’s second single in the run-up to It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back as well a cornerstone of the Less Than Zero soundtrack, “Bring The Noise” is so chock full of great lines and great beats it’s actually kinda overwhelming. I’m tempted to just quote the lyrics, and let it go at that.

After an exhortation from Flavor Flav that ends with a joyous “Yeahhhhh, Booooyyeeeeeee,”, Chuck D just launches into it.

Bass! How low can you go?
Death row? What a brother know
Once again, back is the incredible rhyme animal
The uncannable D!, Public Enemy Number One
Five-O said, “Freeze!”—- and I got numb
Can I tell ’em that I really never had a gun?
But it’s the wax that the Terminator X spun

And speaking of Flav, his harmonizing on “D!” and “Freeze!” are early indicators of just how important to this track Flav truly is, in terms of both taking the piss out of Chuck as well as supporting him, sometimes harmonizing, sometimes responding, sometimes taking the lead, all seemingly at random, but obviously totally choreographed.

Turn it up! Bring the noise!
Turn it up! Bring the noise!

While most of the song is driven by sample of horns that push back again the flow and what sounds like sirens, but could also be a guitar solo, there’s a thrilling moment early on, where everything else drops out and it’s just Chuck D, the beat.

Never badder than bad cause the brother is madder than mad
At the fact that’s corrupt as a senator
Soul on a roll, but you treat it like soap on a rope
Cause the beats and the lines are so dope

But that’s all just warm-up for the declaration that the artificial boundaries between rock and rap were just that: artificial.

Get from in front of me, the crowd runs to me
My deejay is warm, he’s X, I call him Norm, ya know
He can cut a record from side to side
So what, the ride, the glide should be much safer than a suicide
Soul control, beat is the father of your rock’n’roll
Music for whatcha, for whichin’, you call a band, man
Making a music, abuse it, but you can’t do it, ya know
You call ’em demos, (but we ride limos, too)
Whatcha gonna do? Rap is not afraid of you
Beat is for Sonny Bono, (beat is for Yoko Ono!)
Run-DMC first said a deejay could be a band
Stand on its feet, get you out your seat
Beat is for Eric B. and LL as well, hell
(Wax is for Anthrax,) still it can rock bells
Ever forever, universal, it will sell
Time for me to exit, Terminator X-it

Thirty years later, when rock is basically dead and hip-hop is the default lingua franca of young people, this kind of “hey, we want what you got” attitude might also seem quaint, but in 1988, it seemed so radical, especially given just how hard and tough and underground Public Enemy’s music sounded.

But at the same time that verse is warm, funny and incredibly meta, especially on asides like “I call him Norm, ya know”, and speaking of which, I’m never not gonna love “Time for me to exit, Terminator X-it”

In any event, “Bring The Noise” wasn’t a huge chart hit or anything like that — the highest it got was #56 on the Billboard Rap chart — but it was almost instantly influential, sampled by other artists and covered by Anthrax with Chuck D’s full participation.

“Bring The Noise”

“Bring The Noise” video

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