Public Enemy infused a Funk- and Soul-based sound with sound samples (electronic snippets of prerecorded music) and other sound fragments, such as traffic noise and police sirens. A political consciousness pervaded this multilayered sound, through Rap texts and through physical appearance: group members held fake automatic weapons and wore army fatigues and boots, projecting an image of black militancy. Public Enemy's strident lyrics were highly controversial, striking responsive chords with many people while drawing critical responses from many others.
Public Enemy formed in Long Island, New York, in 1987, from the collaborations among lead rappers Chuck D (Carlton Ridenhour) and Flavor Flav (William Drayton), disk jockey (DJ) nickname Terminator X (Norman Rogers) and the group's so-called Minister of Information, Professor Griff (Richard Griffin). The group's producers, Hank Shocklee, Eric “Vietnam” Sadler and Chuck D were collectively known as the Bomb Squad The group ...
A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.