Public Enemy – Fight the Power

Many probably first heard this hip hop song in film maker Spike Lee’s 1989 movie, Do The Right Thing. It was included on Public Enemy’s impressive and powerful 1990 record, Fear Of A Black Planet.

The music may share some similarities with experimental genres and free jazz, for mostly leaving melody behind to create a beautiful wall of sound cacophony that could probably effectively communicate the message of the song even if it were an instrumental.

The words recommend addressing racism through awareness. And then, that African Americans seek more than equality. The song argues the deck is stacked against African Americans; it can’t be so easily reshuffled due to its design. Blind adherence to icons such as Elvis (ripping off black music, perhaps?) and John Wayne (defender of conservative values) are used as examples of false icons perpetuating a society structurally set to continually and reflexively exploit and mistreat African Americans. Thus people need to wake up and “revolutionize.”

Fight The Power became an anthemic call for politicization with a scope beyond the matter of racism. The song title has entered our vernacular as a catch-all term to rise up against any real or perceived oppressors.


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