As one music artist after another proves ill-equipped for the political climate of 2020, Public Enemy seems more relevant by the day. Following a much-documented appearance at a Bernie Sanders rally in March, Chuck D and the group released a scorching new single on Juneteenth (June 19).
Titled “State of the Union (STFU),” the new P.E. track features Chuck D reunited with co-founder Flavor Flav. (For those wondering about Flav’s dismissal in March, apparently that never happened.) And the legendary DJ Premier produced.
For anyone who was wondering, the creators of the masterpiece It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) have not lost a bit of their intensity and flair for the dramatic. On “State of the Union,” Public Enemy tears into the Donald Trump presidency as only Chuck D and Flavor Flav can.
The track, offered free on PublicEnemy.com, went out with a black-and-white video that recalls the golden age of P.E. (and thus hip hop itself). And Chuck D’s voice sounds as mighty and magnificent as ever.
Public Enemy put Donald Trump in its sights on ‘State of the Union (STFU)’
In the decades since the release of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, the lyrics of the record’s great songs continue to resonate. These Chuck D lines took on new significance in the coronavirus (COVID-19) age:
Some perpetrate, they drink Clorox‘Don’t Believe the Hype,’ Public Enemy
Attack the Black, ’cause I know they lack exact
The cold facts
Public Enemy’s mission to educate and fight the power works perfectly on “State of the Union (STFU).” “Whatever it takes rid of this dictator,” Chuch D raps. “Like no other in this lifetime / White House killer deadin’ lifelines.” After going at Trump, Chuck D references the moment of spring 2020.
“Here’s another scare keep them hands in the air / Better not breathe you dare not dare,” he raps. “Don’t say nothing don’t think nothing.” To longtime Public Enemy listeners, it will probably sound like Chuck D’s voice has as much power and authority as ever. (Chuck D will turn 60 in August!)
While they may not (to my knowledge) have worked together before, the sounds of DJ Premier’s production work seamlessly within the P.E. format. And Flav gets the ultra-direct chorus: “State of the Union / Shut the f*ck up / Sorry-ass motherf*cker /Stay away from me.”
The ‘State of the Union (STFU)’ video echoes the classic ‘Fight the Power’ clip
If you’re looking for that one iconic Public Enemy video (and song), “Fight the Power” (1989) would have to be it. The track electrified the music scene upon its July 4, 1989 release, and its Spike Lee-directed video featuring a march through Brooklyn matched its intensity.
Thirty-one years later, protesters have taken to the streets on a level not seen since the Civil Rights era. In the “State of the Union (STFU)” video, images of masked P.E. members walking cut into images of 2020 marchers on America’s streets. And the David Snyder-directed clip weaves in images of Trump and the cops who killed George Floyd (among others) in color.
Throughout, Snyder makes the most of the black-and-white and shadow effects. At the end, the camera pans back revealing a sea of diverse protesters. All told, it’s a remarkable statement (both song and video) by Public Enemy in a massively consequential election year. Once again, P.E. weighed in with the sort of statement we’ve come to expect from the Hall of Fame act.