chuck dPub­lic Enemy are no strangers to using bas­ket­ball as an ana­logy for the human con­di­tion, par­tic­u­larly the socio-eco­nom­ic game which we are all sub­jec­ted to.

Cel­eb­ra­tion of Ignor­ance is the third stu­dio album by Chuck D. Released under his guise of Mis­tachuck which first appeared on his debut solo album Auto­bi­o­graphy of Mis­tachuck that was released in 1996. It is also a concept album on the life and work of bas­ket­ball play­er and act­iv­ist LeBron James and the cur­rent state of affairs under the Trump régime.

The album is a ten track col­lab­or­a­tion with Clev­e­land rap­per Jahi of PE2.0, a Pub­lic Enemy spin off pro­ject that aims to revis­it and rein­ter­pret clas­sic Pub­lic Enemy tracks. This rais­on d’être appears to be at work on this album. The album was pro­duced by the fel­low PE2.0 col­lab­or­at­or an film maker C‑Doc.

The open­er ‘TiredOf45 (12.30.84)’ harks back to the early rock/rap of Def Jam with the refrain “Lebron build­ing schools, 45 build­ing walls”, tak­ing aim at Don­ald Trump who appears on the album as “45”, his name not worthy of respect. Think Book of Rev­el­a­tions where an attack on Emper­or Nero is veiled under the monik­er 666.  It’s a jump up party anthem in the vein of Shut Em Down (Pete Rock Remix), that will no doubt be a fix­ture of future Proph­ets of Rage gigs.

The date in the title is the birth­day of LeBron James, whom Chuck D has col­lab­or­ated with through music and social pro­jects. James’ char­ac­ter appears through­out the album as an anti­thes­is to Trump and as a saviour of human­ity.

The second track, ‘BOT’, fea­tures scratch­ing and cut­ting remin­is­cent of early Pub­lic Enemy and Chuck D’s lyr­ics pack a bit­ing punch of social com­ment­ary as usu­al but this time they about the inter­net age. BOT refers to social media bots that are con­trolling our nar­rat­ives with arti­fi­cial argu­ments and knee jerk reac­tions, and also to the tech­no­logy that is enslav­ing us.

‘Ain’t No’ which fea­tures Wakrat, a group foun­ded by Rage Against the Machine and Proph­ets of Rage bassist Tim Com­mer­ford, is a 90s rock rap piece, its dis­tor­ted gui­tars and “Tired of you f*cking with me” chor­us should appeal to Rage Against the Machine fans.

Bluesy gui­tars fea­ture on ‘Cave­man­ic’, think grunge meets Pub­lic Enemy à la Kool Thing by Son­ic Youth, which is no sur­prise giv­en Chuck D’s liner notes, this is a throw­back album.

The stretched gui­tars cut­ting in and out of the track in the instru­ment­al break towards the end provide the most exper­i­ment­al point on the album and the track as a whole sounds psy­che­del­ic in parts. The lyr­ics deal with the ali­en­a­tion and feel­ing of power­less­ness people have in the world. This adds to the grungy feel­ing of the track. The dumb­ing down of soci­ety and it’s regres­sion to the cave­man like men­tal­ity of Trump’s policies is aso addressed here. It is also about the zom­bi­fic­a­tion of soci­ety caused by tech­no­logy. The imagery of people stuck in their man­caves recalls the inter­net addicted shut ins who have peppered our news media in recent years and Pla­to’s cave allegory where one has to break free and see the truth.

‘Mut­ter­ERT’, Starts off as a jazzy track in the style of Pete Rock, the vocal sample at the begin­ning is an attack on Neo-con­ser­vat­ism. The lyr­ics cement Chuck D’s place as the Bob Dylan of Hip Hop. The deliv­ery is like Earth People from Dr. Octa­goneco­logyst and this track uses sim­il­ar imagery but is more earth-cent­ric, in fact it power­fully con­vinces you that damm this world is in trouble on so many levels. Our polit­ics, eco­nom­ics and addic­tion to tech­no­logy have now made us the ali­ens on moth­er earth.  The song cul­min­ates in a mouth organ cas­cade, bring­ing the albums blues influ­ence and that of six­ties protest songs again to the fore­front .

sPEak On It’ is anoth­er heavy rock track which should go down well at Proph­ets of Rage gigs. The track flows nicely into ‘Free­BLACK’ which is text­book Pub­lic Enemy. Chuck D takes the soap­box for more socially con­scious lyr­ics on escap­ing the sys­tem over a basic drum track. Its min­im­al­ism mak­ing it more power­ful against the pre­vi­ous rock song with a siren sound that is almost like the icon­ic whistle on Rebel Without a Pause.

 ‘Black­ni­fi­cient’ a slow track, the main sample shows the album’s soul influ­ence. The lyr­ics again con­sist of issues rel­ev­ant to our times and also inter­net slang acronyms which are symp­to­mat­ic of our cur­rent day. The main chor­us of “Our sig­ni­fic­ance is infin­ite” offers an anti­dote to the hope­less­ness and apathy of today. The empower­ing lyr­ics hark back to the early days of con­scious Hip Hop like KRS-One and also the civil rights move­ment.

Cel­eb­ra­tion of Ignor­ance’ is the album’s title track and the most dir­ect attack on Trump, It almost sounds G‑Funk in places, it is more an inter­lude with social com­ment­ary by Chuck D. It’s remin­is­cent of DJ Shadow’s ‘Why Hip Hop sucks in ’96’ but more like “why the world sucks in 2019”.

It addresses the prob­lems of today like “The dumb­ing down of Amer­ica”, and fea­tures a cri­tique of the cur­rency of today, “30 second sound­bites”, which will even­tu­ally count down to 1 second sound­bites. The inter­lude then ends with fade out into a void, prob­ably a pause to take in the implic­a­tions of the lyr­ics.

The next track marks a hope­ful and angry return. “Tiredof45 10.18.18”is a reprise of the open­ing track, and closes the album, The date mark­ing Lebron James’ Lakers debut. James has hin­ted at run­ning for office in 2020, his first year of eli­gib­il­ity. Is this album then Chuck D’s endorse­ment of the King of Akron for pres­id­ent?

This album is a refresh­ing return to socially con­scious Hip Hop in the cur­rent cli­mate of cheap club tracks. It is an exhil­ar­at­ing listen and when it’s over you really feel like tak­ing a stand. Music­ally it harks back to the early days of the genre and shows vast music­al influ­ence, in part gleamed from Proph­ets of Rage, and Pub­lic Enemy’s earli­er rock sampling. Fans of Pub­lic Enemy and Chuck D will not be dis­ap­poin­ted. It’s a great album that tran­scends the Hip Hop genre through its music­al pal­let but son­ic­ally there is noth­ing much that is new here, not that that was ever the point.

A joint by DJ ISURU #1



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DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground, the next party will be on March 24th Ven­ue TBC.


DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground, the next party will be on March 24th Venue TBC.