Friday, April 06, 2007

The Breakdown (Part1) Public Enemy - Black Steel in The Hour of Chaos

The Breakdown Of A Classic (Public Enemy - Black Steel in The Hour of Chaos) From 1988's "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back"(Download).

Public Enemy's
-"Black Steel in The Hour Of Chaos"(Peep it) has long been my #1 hard body hip hop jam off all time. The lyrics to this gem are a prime example, not only of story-telling in rap, but of using a story to express political views, mainly about the prison system, war, and racism. This is the reason i personaly picked "Black Steel" as my #1 Hip Hop song of all time!!


The song is built on a high-pitched piano sample from the Isaac Hayes song "Hyperbolicsyllabicseequedalymystic" (peep It) the jam also samples "Little Green Apples" (Peep it )by The Escorts and "Living for the City" (Peep it) by Stevie Wonder.


The vocals are done mostly by Chuck D, with Flavor Flav appearing in between verses, speaking to Chuck over the phone. Flavor actually went to another room and did actually call the studio to achieve this effect.

The lyrics deal with a story bout the Vietnam war. Chuck D has been drafted ("I got a letter from the government, the other day / I opened and read it, it said they were suckers / they wanted me for their army or whatever") ; however, he refuses to become part of the army ("I said 'never!'"). The main idea behind this is that the war is wrong, and so is the treatment of Black people by American society ("here's a land that never gave a damn about a brother like me"). This serves to both criticize war, racism and the prison system ("4 of us packed in a cell like slaves").

Chuck is then taken to prison, which he attempts to escape from. "Black Steel" is a reference to a gun, which he needs to escape. By the end of the second verse, Chuck has taken a gun from a CO (corrections officer) who has "fallin' asleep".

With gat in hand, Chuck and the other prisoners escape "to the ghetto - no sell out". Chuck then comments on how there are 6 CO's who he "ought to put their head out". He does not, at first, but after a female tries to escape she is shot, ("Got a woman CO to call me a 'copter / She tried to get away, and I popped her"), presumably dead ("I had 6 COs, now it's 5 to go").

The final verse ends with Chuck and the rest of the prisoners on their final escape. They are confronted with shots and there is a state of chaos. Chuck makes a comment about prison and racism ("This is what I mean—an anti-nigger machine") , which later became the basis for another Public Enemy song, "Anti-Nigger Machine" (featured on the 1990 album, Fear of a Black Planet). Finally, the S1Ws come to the rescue. The song ends with the line "53 brothers on the run, and we are gone" indicating a successful prison escape. (However, in the video for the song, this line accompanies the image of Chuck D being hung by the warden of the prison.)Also peep Eric Sermon & Parrish Smith(EPMD) making a guest spot as a couple of prisoners in the vid.


Blogger The Gosub Routine said...

I really appreciate your "spot on" break down of this P.E. track.

It's obvious you care about it and it's great that you put this review up so people like me can read it at 3.30 a.m. (british time) to make feedback.

Cheers mate!


10:34 PM  
Blogger Crooklyn said...

1 love to you "The Gosub Routine" Props 4 lovin hip hop like i do!!!!

10:44 PM  
Blogger Kazeiro said...

Great review, love the song, one of P.E.'s best work

7:16 AM  
Anonymous qnzgrimiest said...

happy easter my dude

7:31 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

This has always been my favorite P.E. song....and brings back lots of memories. As a youngster, I listened without my parent's knowledge to a heavy dose of rap music. The first tape I ever had was Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince in Sicily when my family was stationed there. For some reason or another, it was taken away from me. Then on a trip to visit my grandma in Georgia when I was 12 or 13, I was listening (and quietly humming along without my knowledge) to Straight Outta Compton, when my mother asked me what I was listening to with such vigor and attention. She then proceeded to take the headphones from me and listen for herself. After about ten seconds she gave them back to me and didn't talk to me the rest of the trip after telling me not to let my little brother listen to that tape EVER. When N.W.A. broke up, I chose sides and that led to my love for Ice Cube (who is still my numero uno). Around this same time, I was discovering Public Enemy. The fact they collaborated back then was pretty much heaven for me. Thanks for the trip back down memory lane.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Get Fresh said...

That is without a doubt my favorite PE song ever! Favorite hip hop joint of all time? Questionable. The concept and beat mesh perfectly. This is when production was innovative. Just Blaze and Game ruined this classic!

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

first public enemy tune i heard was rebel without a pause and at the time i never really appreciated "the noise". then i heard Black steel and it was like "cot damn!!!" .. if dude says it's HIS favourite joint of all time, ain't no questioning that , it is what it is...
i'ma probably be bumping this for the grand kids

11:15 PM  
Blogger Donnie said...

I agree but "you gonna get yours" is still my favorite cut by PE ever,i even got a 98 olds.They didn't play rap in clubs so i was at the famous EXIT punk bar on Wells in Chicago when we herd Chuck D "my 98 Oldsmobile like" it changed my word music wise.So Amen to that home.

12:35 AM  

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