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Headed into the Rock Hall: Public Enemy’s 20 greatest songs

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Public Enemy heads to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight (April 18). The legendary crew burst onto the scene in 1986 with their classic single “Public Enemy #1,” and soon signed with the then-fledgling label Def Jam Recordings. On the heels of major commercial successes by label mates LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys, P.E.’s debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show failed to achieve platinum success — despite widespread praise from music critics. Soon after, however, Chuck D., Flavor Flav, Prof. Griff and Terminator X became hip-hop superstars on the strength of critically acclaimed and commercial successful classic albums like It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, Fear of A Black Planet, Apocalypse 91: The Enemy Strikes Black.

The combination of Chuck’s fiery politically-charged lyrics, Flav’s humorous asides and dense, sample-heavy production by The Bomb Squad made P.E. one of the most unique acts in music. By the end of the 1980s and heading into the ’90s, they had become hip-hop’s most talked-about group. They set the bar for socially-aware rap music and expanded the conceptual possibilities of the hip-hop album. All the while releasing some of the genre’s most unforgettable singles and music videos.

Tonight, the crew from Long Island, N.Y., get their due. Public Enemy is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the group’s first year of eligibility; with director Spike Lee and entertainer-activist Harry Belafonte doing the honors. Also heading into the hall tonight are the late Donna Summer, prog rock superstars Rush, singer-songwriter Randy Newman and the first ladies of classic rock, Heart.

In tribute to the “prophets of rage” joining Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys as the fourth hip-hop act to enter the hall, we decided to count down the 20 greatest Public Enemy songs EVER …

 

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