LIVE: Public Enemy (Pitchfork ’08)

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Chuck D.JPG

Because I grew up on Public Enemy, and because It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back is one of my favorite hip-hop albums of all-time, I was both thrilled out of my mind and scared to death to see P.E. perform it in its entirety.

(left: Nothing like taking pictures of Chuck D on the jumbo-tron when the lighting gets bad.)

On one hand, if done correctly, by letting the Bomb Squad’s instrumentals breath freely on the turntables and hoping that Chuck D and Flavor Flav could co-exist in perfect harmony, this performance could be downright legendary. On the other hand, if Public Enemy’s backing band decided to overpower the turntable mix–and if Flavor Flav was given too much free time to self-promote on the microphone–this performance could be a car wreck. Why such cynicism? Well, let’s just say I saw a TV show once where Bridgette Nielson joined Public Enemy on stage and it almost made me weep.

Though Public Enemy’s live backing band was present, they did a good job (most of the night) of letting the legendary beats on It Takes A Nation do all the talking. I was overjoyed when the set began with “Countdown To Armageddon”–English announcer guy, sirens, the works! I was also excited when P.E. played the album version of “Bring The Noise,” rather than the Anthrax remake appearing on Apocalypse ’91 (you’d think with a live band they’d be tempted to do the latter).

The performance of “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic” was one of my favorites of the night, and though Terminator wasn’t on hand, Chuck D did preface the track by dedicating it to their “Hall-of-Fame DJ who retired in 1998.” Another stand out, probably just because P.E. doesn’t break it out that often, was “Night Of the Living Baseheads.” Hearing Chuck D say “BASS!” never gets old.

To my surprise, Public Enemy was very faithful to It Takes A Nation, everything from the intros and outros to the interlude tracks like “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” and “Security of the First World,” where the S1W’s stood center stage and performed a military step routine.

Throughout the set Chuck D was also treating the crowd with some Public Enemy trivia. I almost didn’t believe it, but before “Caught, Can We Get A Witness,” Chuck D said that this was the first time P.E. ever performed the song live in America. Before “Cold Lampin’ With Flavor,” Flavor Flav explained that the sample at the beginning of the song was of New York City DJ, Mr. Magic, who called the group a bunch of suckers after playing P.E.’s first single on his radio show. “Cold Lampin'” was a response to Mr. Magic’s diss. Later in the set, Chuck brought out Hank Shocklee of the Bomb Squad and told the following story:

It Takes A Nation was an album created for tape, hence Public Enemy crafted two sides. Up until the album was being mastered, the first side was going to be the second side and vice versa, meaning the album’s opener was originally going to be “Show Em Whatcha Got,” with the second side beginning with “Countdown to Armageddon” and ending with “Caught, Can We Get A Witness.” At the last second Shocklee decided the album needed a little more bass and speed at the beginning, so he swapped sides.

Oddly enough, the only time Public Enemy didn’t stay consistent with the studio recording of It Takes A Nation was during its signature track, “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos.” Without that classic-sounding piano loop and back-masked record beat, the live drums and bass just didn’t stack up. The only rock-influenced song on the album, “She Watch Channel Zero?!,” curiously didn’t use Public Enemy’s backing band. Hmm?


For the most part Flavor Flav behaved himself tonight (at least during the It Takes A Nation performance). There was only one time during the set when he talked about being the #1 reality TV star in the world. After hearing some boos from the crowd, Flavor got defensive and angrily asked the crowd why they weren’t happy for his success. I don’t think the crowd was discrediting Flav’s accomplishments, but I believe the heckles were unleashed because some of the reality shows he’s been a part of could ironically be the same type of programs rallied against in P.E.’s “She Watch Channel Zero?!” (Falls a fool–for some dude–on a tube.)

(above: Flavor Flav only talked about being a reality TV star once tonight, he did however, plug his new sitcom a handful of times.)

All in all though, I thoroughly enjoyed Public Enemy’s performance of It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. I even enjoyed their surprise encore for a brief moment.

Following “Party For Your Right To Fight,” Chuck D told the crowd, “And after that, we wrote this.” P.E. then launched into Fear Of A Black Planet’s “Welcome To The Terrordome,” followed by Apocalypse 91’s “Shut ‘Em Down,” which would have been a perfect and logical end to the evening, but Public Enemy, as they’ve been known to do with their live show over the last 10 years, don’t know when to call it a night.

Public Enemy, claiming to have only a few more minutes of set-time left, ended with:

“He Got Game”
“911 Is a Joke”
“Harder Than You Think” (a more recent P.E. offering)
“Can’t Truss It”
“Public Enemy No. 1”
A five-minute DJ Lord solo
Flavor Flav drum solo (Neil Peart he is not)
“Fight the Power” (extended soul jam version)
A lengthy self-empowerment speech delivered by, you guessed it, Flavor Flav

Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing P.E.’s back catalog, but on a night celebrating the 20th anniversary of It Takes A Nation, I just wanted to savor the magic they delivered earlier in the evening.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.