Public Enemy

The Evil Empire of Everything

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Arriving just a few months after Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp, Public Enemy's The Evil Empire of Everything is a decidedly different album than their other 2012 album. It's leaner and harder, stripped down to its hard, unbreakable basics, Public Enemy honing their politics and music so Evil Empire of Everything has a precise, steely glint. There is no hiding Chuck D's anger at the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, not when the album opens with 911 calls where black teenagers are held under suspicion for the color of their skin, and not when there's a centerpiece called "Beyond Trayvon," but for as hard as these songs hit, what's striking about Evil Empire of Everything is its music. Despite some prominent guests -- Ziggy Marley shows up on "Don't Give Up the Fight" and Tom Morello ladles guitar over "Riotstarted" -- Public Enemy make clear, conscious connections between their music and classic '60s soul, most notably on the slow-burning "Everything" (featuring vocals by Gerald Albright and Sheila Brody), where Chuck D's testifying sounds straight from the roster of Stax, but also on the hard funk of "Notice" or the blaring horns of "Say It Like It Really Is." This is how a hip-hop group reaches middle age: by placing themselves as part of a tradition, never lingering in the past but never desperately riding trends.

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