Notes on Popular Culture: The Pop Song Pantheon #4

Posted by Michael Borshuk On 11:47 AM
The Pop Song Pantheon, Vol. 4



"Fight the Power" by Public Enemy (1989)

In the wake of Flavor Flav's ongoing move toward outright television buffoonery, and Chuck D.'s progressive mellowing, away from hip-hop reactionary and toward campus-friendly public intellectual, it may be hard for some listeners to recall what excitement this group generated back in the day. They were the first hip-hop concert I attended, at age 16. I got waved down with a metal detector, man! (That moment was less, I realized even then, a necessary precaution than it was cartoonish old-fashioned racist zeal from the local police...) This song, is of course, the theme to Spike Lee's incendiary film, Do the Right Thing (the last good American movie of the 1980s, confronting as it did the repressed effects of Tawana Brawley's accusations, the Howard Beach incident, Michael Stewart's murder, and Bernard Goetz's vigilante action, among black and white Americans in New York) and the track reverberates throughout the mounting tension of that movie's narrative. Even separated from its crucial contextual place in Lee's film, though, the song still has legs. Chuck D's lyrics were angry and inventive, and the group's production team (the fabled "Bomb Squad") were virtuosic in the cacophonic textures they crafted out of beats and disembodied samples. Play it loud.


0 Responses to 'Notes on Popular Culture: The Pop Song Pantheon #4'

About Me

My photo
MICHAEL BORSHUK is Associate Professor of African American Literature at Texas Tech University. He is the author of SWINGING THE VERNACULAR: JAZZ AND AFRICAN AMERICAN MODERNIST LITERATURE (Routledge, 2006), and numerous essays, reviews, and encyclopedia entries on African American literature, American modernism, and music. For ten years, from 1999 to 2009, he wrote on jazz regularly for CODA MAGAZINE. His fiction has appeared in ANTIGONISH REVIEW, DALHOUSIE REVIEW, ELYSIAN FIELDS QUARTERLY, SHORT STORY, and 34TH PARALLEL.

Currently Reading

Michael is currently reading...



More of Michael's books »
Michael Borshuk's currently-reading book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

What I've Been Watching

What I've Been Watching
Check out my Letterboxd profile to see what I've been watching.

Categories:

a bout de souffle (1) adam bradley (1) adam yauch (1) advertising (1) albert camus (1) alex rodriguez (1) alfred tennyson (1) american literature (2) amiri baraka (1) amy lowell (1) andrew hacker (1) anne sexton (1) annie ross (1) annoyances (1) arithmetic (1) art (2) barack obama (1) bargain vinyl (1) barney kessel (1) bart giamatti (1) baseball (12) batman (1) beastie boys (1) ben shahn (1) bill berkson (1) billy collins (1) blue note records (1) bob dylan (1) bob hoskins (1) bob rafaelson (1) bob seger (1) books (1) breathless (1) bruce dern (1) bruce springsteen (1) bruce wayne (1) cannonball adderley (1) captain haddock (1) carroll john daly (1) cd reviews (1) charles baudelaire (1) charlie parker (1) clarence beeks (1) claudia dreifus (1) clint eastwood (1) computers (1) culture club (1) dalai lama (1) denzel washington (1) design (4) detroit tigers (7) django unchained (1) documentary (1) dogs (1) don delillo (1) donald fagen (1) donald hall (1) dr. john (1) dr. wu (1) duke ellington (1) edgar allan poe (1) education (2) ee cummings (1) elizabeth bishop (1) elliott randall (1) elvis costello (1) emily dickinson (1) ernest lawrence thayer (1) esquire magazine (1) fiction (4) film (8) fiona apple (1) francis ford coppola (1) frank o'hara (1) fyodor dostoevsky (1) george lois (1) georgia douglas johnson (1) gnarls barkley (1) grandmaster flash (2) helen mirren (1) hip hop (3) international jazz day (1) j peterman (1) jack nicholson (1) jacques tati (1) james carter (1) jazz (10) jean-luc godard (1) jean-michel basquiat (1) jean-paul belmondo (1) jesse jackson (1) jimi hendrix (1) joe cocker (1) john carlos (1) john coltrane (1) john ditsky (1) john hartigan (1) john keats (2) john lennon (1) john updike (1) justin verlander (1) ken burns (1) king of marvin gardens (1) king pleasure (1) lebron james (1) literature (38) loic rohmer (1) loic romer (1) lord byron (1) lubbock (1) marc bolan (1) mark williams (1) michael mcdonald (1) michael ondaatje (1) michael s. harper (1) michelangelo antonioni (1) miguel cabrera (1) miles davis (2) mina loy (1) mo' better blues (1) movie posters (1) muhammad ali (2) mvp (1) national poetry month (30) netflix (3) new jazz archive (1) new york yankees (1) newt gingrich (1) night moves (1) otto preminger (1) p.k. page (1) pantheon (17) paul blackburn (1) paul mccartney (1) paul simon (1) personal (32) philip levine (1) pierce brosnan (1) pipe smokers (6) podcast (1) poetry (35) politics (7) popular music (24) prince (1) public enemy (1) public radio (1) quentin tarantino (1) quotations (21) rabbit is rich (1) race (4) radiant child (1) ralph ellison (2) ray charles (1) raymond chandler (1) reading (1) reid miles (1) richard wilbur (1) richard wright (1) rick santorum (2) robert hass (1) robert lowell (1) robert moskowitz (1) robert oppenheimer (1) russell edson (1) sanjoy mahajan (1) saul bass (3) simon and garfunkel (1) sly and the family stone (1) smokey robinson (1) sonny rollins (2) soundtrack (12) sparky anderson (1) spike lee (2) st. paul (1) stanislaw lem (1) steely dan (13) stuart hall (1) stuff i want (1) suso cecchi d'amico (1) swinging the vernacular (1) t.rex (1) t.s. eliot (1) talking heads (1) teaching (2) terrance hayes (1) texas tech (3) the bad plus (1) the beach boys (1) the beatles (1) the bee gees (1) the bird and the bee (1) the doobie brothers (1) the meters (1) the new yorker (1) thelonious monk (2) theodore roethke (1) things i will never do (1) tintin (1) traffic (1) vampire weekend (1) vladimir nabokov (1) whimsies (47) white noise (1) william carlos williams (1) william stafford (1) windsor (1) wish list (4) woody allen (1) writing (6) wynton marsalis (1) yusef komunyakaa (2)