Brian Coleman Breaks Down The Classics
Brian Coleman penned Rakim Told Me in 2005, and the follow-up, Check The Technique, in 2007. Brian decided to break down some of his favorite tracks from some of the classic hip-hop albums he covered in his books. Check for Brian’s next volume of Check The Technique later this year. For more info on what he is up to, visit http://www.waxfacts.com/
By: Brian Coleman
SONG #1 FROM “CHECK THE TECHNIQUE” AND WHY I LOVE IT
Public Enemy “Bring The Noise” (1987)
There are so many reasons why I love Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise,” which is 25 years old this year. I believe that if more young producers listened to this song at least once a month they wouldn’t be so boring. It makes you want to push your own creativity. This song was a statement, it punched hip-hop and rock in the face in 1987. It was a warning siren. It was Public Enemy’s truest calling card.
To me it’s a punk song as much as a hip-hop track. The NOISE (both literal and metaphorical in the song itself, if you want to get academic) was unmistakable. And that cacophony, the screeching guitar heard in the background, was taken from a song by Funkadelic (“Get Off Your Ass And Jam”), another group who were famous for warning sirens and genre-pushing. That noise was both utilitarian and symbolic, and I loved both groups so it was just one big funky family.
The song has no consistent structure, throwing left turns with backing beats and choruses and Flavor Flav punch-ins throughout, making it more complex than any other hip-hop song at the time (and, arguably, since). It takes listeners on a journey, and keeps ears open wide the whole time. Different drums, samples, speeds, textures, ideas. It forces you to pay attention.
And then there is Chuck’s voice, in my opinion hip-hop’s best ever. Confident, strong and impossible to ignore. He attacks each verse, sometimes conversationally, sometimes in a more tongue-twisting approach. But definitely never faltering. His defiance and commitment to what Public Enemy were all about – righteous anger that not only pointed out problems but many times suggested solutions – comes across in every line.
If you want proof about its genre duality, here’s a good story: In late 1987 or maybe early 1988 I was at a GWAR show in Philadelphia (if you aren’t familiar with GWAR, look em up). After an hour of grimy slime rock and theatrics, the show ended and the lights came back on. And as the (all white) crowd was illuminated, “Bring the Noise” came on the house system. I was pretty surprised, definitely not what I was expecting to hear.
Instead of slowly walking out, covered in the fake blood and guts that had just been spewed from the stage, a group of maybe 15 punks all started shouting out the lyrics, in unison, along with Chuck’s righteous rants against black radio and passive rap listening. I wasn’t one of them, I was standing in the back, shocked and mesmerized by the scene. I thought I would have been the only one in the room who even knew what “Bring The Noise” was, but I was very wrong. It brought a smile to my face, knowing that PE’s influence was spreading wider than they probably even knew.
“Bring the Noise” sounds every bit as good today as it did in 1987, when it ripped the rap world apart. It may never be equaled, but I hope that people will continue trying.