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DID YOU READ

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?

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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.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…