Last night's crowd at the Music Farm seemed to represent one giant generation gap, with college kids in fraternity T-shirts standing next to mothers in shoddily screen-printed Flava Flav tank tops. "My kids would die if they knew I was here," one mother of three told me. "But I haven't seen Public Enemy since their 1991 tour with Anthrax — and God, I hate Anthrax."
We had time to chat, as the show started at 10:15 p.m. — more than two hours after the doors opened. Public Enemy's hype man peddled T-shirts on stage for a good 20 minutes, asking "Where's the love?," to which one audience member responded with what everyone was thinking, "Where's the music?"
The show finally started with local rapper Ghetto Child taking the stage (not sure what happened to scheduled openers Crew Grrl Order). The crowd, young and old, didn't seem too into the performance, staying too close to the "gangsta-life" lyrics that plague modern rap. Ironically, Child's set was peppered with some of the language that Public Enemy discourages (an issue they specifically addressed in the 1991 song "I Don't Wanna Be Called Yo Niga").
Following a short four-song set, Child left the stage and Chuck D, DJ Lord, Griff, and S1W replaced him, immediately launching into "Brothers Gonna Work it Out." The infamous Flava Flav, giant clock necklace in tow, stormed the stage after the first verse. A full band with a live drummer and guitarist fleshed out the arrangement, letting the songs hit harder than their original production. Microphone problems muffled the vocals a bit, though. Regardless, Flav, Chuck D, and Griff hyped the crowd with no problem.
Public Enemy's summer tour celebrates the 20th anniversary of Fear of a Black Planet. They ran through their biggest hits, including early set highlight "911 is a Joke," plus It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back's "Don't Believe the Hype," and "Burn Hollywood Burn."
Perhaps it was because Flav had family in the crowd, but the James Island-native's performance seemed a little restrained for, you know, a Flav performance (not a bad thing, as the "Flava-dance" was kept to a minimum). However, before launching into "Cold Lampin' with Flavor," which may be the only rap song to include the word "sarsaparilla," he gave the late radio-DJ Mr. Magic one off-colored tribute — roughly, "You're dead and we miss you, but you shouldn't have trash talked Public Enemy."
As the set winded down, the band demonstrated their skills on and off the mic, with guitar solos, turntable solos, and a drum solo by Flav. While the crowd was thinning by that point, the lady with the '89 Flav tank-top pulled out her iPhone and started filming, turning to me only to yell, "This is so excellent!"
Click on the slide show to the right for photos by Joshua Curry.