Morning Music: Public Enemy

911 Is a Joke - Public EnemyThe other day, a client mentioned the song “911 Is a Joke” by Public Enemy. Since the song was released after 1980, I had not heard it. But I was pleased that I actually knew who Public Enemy are. That probably has a lot more to do with their politics than their music, although I certain have heard “Fight the Power.”

“911 Is a Joke” is about the situation — probably as true today as it was then — of very slow response times for paramedics when calls came from African American neighborhoods. As with most music of that time, the song is haunted by its use of electronic sounds that were great then but over used. But it is still catchy and enjoyable.

I read something painful on Wikipedia, “According to law professors Peter DiCola and Kembrew McLeod, if the samples used on ‘911 Is a Joke’ and the other tracks on Fear of a Black Planet had been cleared for copyright under 2010 rates, each copy of the album would have generated a loss of five dollars per album sold, instead of a profit.” As regular readers know: I think our copyright system is out of control. Here is yet another example of how copyright decreases innovation and creative work.

4 thoughts on “Morning Music: Public Enemy

  1. OK — funniest T-shirt I’ve seen in, well, forever. I hate funny T-shirts. But this was a great one, I saw it the other day. It featured the old “WB” Looney Tunes logo shield, prominently featured. Above it, in smallish-but-clearly-readable print, it read, “If You See A Cop.” Took me about ten seconds to get the joke, some people I’ve described it to get it instantly, others don’t get it at all.

    • “Warn a brother.” Very clever. As my friend Jim Hogshire says, “There is no situation I can imagine in which I would feel safer with the police around.”

      • I miss angry, political rap. It’s like punk; the thrilling sound of it can be repurposed by anybody for lamer uses. Others will have their favorite PE tracks, but mine is “She Watch Channel Zero.” If someone’s doing passionate, political rap like that now, I’d be happy to learn about it. There’s always MC Frontalot:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3r-4Irm_Ww8

        And Ghostface Killah, with an old (90’s) classic that stuns and breaks down into tears everyone that hears it for the first time:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaIAeO2IiZ8

        Seriously, how do people not know this shit?

        • To some extent, I think people’s lives are hard enough. And our society does everything it can stop people from caring enough to make changes. I’m feeling hopeless these days.

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