Don't Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin': The Authorized Story of Public Enemy

Overview

Russell Myrie’s Don’t Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin’ is the first authorized biography of Public Enemy, the foremost hip-hop group of all time. With unprecedented access to the group, Myrie has conducted extensive interviews with Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, Professor Griff, and the Shocklee Brothers, along with many others who form a part of Public Enemy’s legacy. Beginning with the group’s inception on Long Island and working up to the present day, Myrie writes with in-depth detail about the making of ...

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Overview

Russell Myrie’s Don’t Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin’ is the first authorized biography of Public Enemy, the foremost hip-hop group of all time. With unprecedented access to the group, Myrie has conducted extensive interviews with Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, Professor Griff, and the Shocklee Brothers, along with many others who form a part of Public Enemy’s legacy. Beginning with the group’s inception on Long Island and working up to the present day, Myrie writes with in-depth detail about the making of each seminal album, including It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and their multimillion selling album, Fear of a Black Planet. Myrie delves into the controversy sparked by Professor Griff’s alleged anti- Semitic remarks, the complexities of PE’s relationship with the Nation of Islam, the group’s huge crossover appeal with white and alternative music audiences in the early nineties, and finally the strange circumstances of Flavor Flav’s re-emergence on reality TV with shows such as The Surreal Life and Flavor of Love. A rare behind-the-music look at the group that fought the power, terrorized the music industry, and was crucial to the development of the hip-hop music phenomenon.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The most critically acclaimed rap outfit in history is chronicled deferentially in this entertaining but frustratingly sloppy biography by Village Voice arts editor Myrie. The lives of Public Enemy's yin and yang superstars, the solemn lyricist Chuck D and the outrageous hypeman Flava Flav, along with their outsize coterie of producers, DJs, security forces and one "media assassin," are recounted anecdotally, often in the participants' own voices. The group's evolution from a collection of radio and party DJs called Spectrum City at Adelphi University in Long Island to a politically charged monster packing the streets of Brooklyn to film the video for "Fight the Power" was the result of a remarkable confluence of talent, discipline and luck. The characters come to life in small, insightful moments: Chuck D riding on Greyhound buses around the country by himself at the height of the group's fame, the Bomb Squad collaborating with Ice Cube in an East Coast-West Coast dream team. Myrie is defensive on controversial flash points of the group's history, particularly Professor's Griff's alleged anti-Semitic comments to a reporter. However, Flav's struggles with drugs and subsequent re-emergence as a reality TV Frankenstein come to life through his inimitable voice, making one wish for a well-curated oral history rather than Myrie's cluttered approach. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Public Enemy is undeniably one of the greatest hip-hop bands of all time. Hip-hop fans from the inner city to the suburbs can find common ground in Public Enemy's message, as the band seems more interested in spreading the word on social and political issues than getting paid. With the biting lyrics of Chuck D and his interplay with the all-time greatest hype man, Flavor Flav, Public Enemy changed the way the music industry and the world viewed rap, influencing bands from A Tribe Called Quest to the Fugees. Myrie (arts editor, Village Voice) explores the group's deep history. While the quality of the writing is inconsistent, the chronicle is an incredibly important part of music history, and Myrie does a great job of uncovering the story behind some of the band's best albums and songs. The group doesn't perform anymore, but Chuck D remains a staple on the college lecture circuit. This is a good companion to the number of bios available on the band, including Chuck D's Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality. Recommended for all music collections.
—Christine Schonhart

Kirkus Reviews
Serviceable but toothless look at the poster children for brainy hip-hop. Fronted by African-American culture pundit Chuck D and current reality-TV star Flavor Flav, Public Enemy is arguably the most important unit ever produced by the hip-hop nation. (Rolling Stone included them on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.) The group's singular ability to combine politically conscious lyrics and funky beats, all tied together by Chuck's clarion voice and Flav's goofball onstage and in-studio clowning, is why they are one of the few rap groups whose 20-year-old music sounds and feels as if it could have been created today. Yet up until now, aside from Chuck's two hit-and-miss memoirs, there have been no Public Enemy books-as opposed to at least 15 titles about Kurt Cobain and/or Nirvana, to name one of the only bands of that era equally important within its own genre. Was Village Voice arts editor Myrie's study worth the wait? Sort of. He had full access to Chuck, Flav and the rest of the crew, to the brain trust at Def Jam Records and to virtually everybody else who played a role in the group's artistic and cultural success; all of them were forthcoming and generous with their stories and observations. Unfortunately, the book is almost completely rooted in fact: Here's what happened in the studio . . . here's what happened on tour . . . here's the next album, etc. Myrie offers very little historical context or analysis, which seems a particularly grievous oversight in the first-ever group portrait. Discerning fans will want a more in-depth, wide-ranging book, but that may not happen until Public Enemy hangs up the microphones. In the interim, this genial survey will have tosuffice.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802129949
  • Publisher: Canongate U.S.
  • Publication date: 10/12/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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