Monday, 11 February 2013




To get a greater understanding of the group and their past history I have researched into the groups biography. I will highlight parts that I believe to be of importance.

  • Public Enemy rewrote the rules of hip-hop, becoming the most influential and controversial rap group of the late '80s and, for many, the definitive rap group of all time.
  • With his powerful, authoritative baritone, lead rapper Chuck D rhymed about all kinds of social problems, particularly those plaguing the black community, often condoning revolutionary tactics and social activism.
  • Musically, Public Enemy was just as revolutionary, as their production team, the Bomb Squad, created dense soundscapes that relied on avant-garde cut-and-paste techniques, unrecognizable samples, piercing sirens, relentless beats, and deep funk.
  • It was chaotic and invigorating music, made all the more intoxicating by Chuck D's forceful vocals and the absurdist raps of his comic foil, Flavor Flav. With his comic sunglasses and an oversized clock hanging from his neck, Flav became the group's visual focal point.
  • Chuck D (born Carlton Ridenhour, August 1, 1960) formed Public Enemy in 1982, as he was studying graphic design at Adelphi University on Long Island. 
  • Chuck D initially was reluctant, but he eventually developed a concept for a literally revolutionary hip-hop group -- one that would be driven by sonically extreme productions and socially revolutionary politics.
  • Public Enemy's debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was released on Def Jam Records in 1987.
  • A Nation of Millions was hailed as revolutionary by both rap and rock critics, and it was -- hip-hop had suddenly become a force for social change.
  • Public Enemy spent the remainder of 1989 preparing their third album, releasing "Welcome to the Terrordome" as its first single in early 1990.
  • Fear of a Black Planet was released to enthusiastic reviews in the spring of 1990, and it shot into the pop Top Ten as the singles "911 Is a Joke," "Brothers Gonna Work It Out," and "Can't Do Nuttin' for Ya Man" became Top 40 R&B hits. 
  • For their next album, 1991's Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black, the group re-recorded "Bring the Noise" with thrash metal band Anthrax, the first sign that the group was trying to consolidate their white audience.
  • Apocalypse 91 was greeted with overwhelmingly positive reviews upon its fall release
  • Public Enemy was on hiatus during 1993, as Flav attempted to wean himself off drugs, returning in the summer of 1994 with Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age. Prior to its release, it was subjected to exceedingly negative reviews in Rolling Stone and The Source, which affected the perception of the album considerably
  • Muse Sick debuted at number 14, but it quickly fell off the charts as it failed to generate any singles.
  • Chuck D retired Public Enemy from touring in 1995 as he severed ties with Def Jam, developed his own record label and publishing company.
  • Chuck D published an autobiography in the fall of 1997.
  • During 1997, Chuck D reassembled the original Bomb Squad and began work on three albums.
  • In the spring of 1998, Public Enemy kicked off their major comeback with their soundtrack to Spike Lee's He Got Game.
  •  Upon its April 1998 release, the record received the strongest reviews of any Public Enemy album since Apocalypse '91...The Enemy Strikes Black. After Def Jam refused to help Chuck D's attempts to bring PE's music straight to the masses via the Internet, he signed the group to the web-savvy independent Atomic Pop
  • Before the retail release of Public Enemy's seventh LP, There's a Poison Goin' On..., the label made MP3 files of the album available on the Internet. It finally appeared in stores in July 1999.
  • After a three-year break from recording and a switch to the In the Paint label, Public Enemy released Revolverlution, a mix of new tracks, remixes, and live cuts. The CD/DVD combo It Takes a Nation appeared in 2005.
  • Public Enemy then entered a relatively quiet phase, at least in terms of recording, releasing only the 2011 remix and rarities compilation Beats & Places in the next five years. 
  • Then, the group came back in a big way in 2012, releasing two new full-length albums: the summer's Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp and the fall's Evil Empire of Everything (both were available digitally before they had a physical release in November). Public Enemy also toured extensively throughout 2012 and into 2013.


  • As Public Enemy's profile was raised, they opened themselves up to controversy. In a notorious statement,Chuck D claimed that rap was "the black CNN," relating what was happening in the inner city in a way that mainstream media could not project. 
  •  Public Enemy's lyrics were naturally dissected in the wake of such a statement, and many critics were uncomfortable with the positive endorsement of black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan on "Bring the Noise." "Fight the Power," Public Enemy's theme for Spike Lee's controversial 1989 film Do the Right Thing, also caused an uproar for its attacks on Elvis Presley and John Wayne, but that was considerably overshadowed by an interview Professor Griff gave The Washington Times that summer.
  •  Griff had previously said anti-Semitic remarks on-stage, but his quotation that Jews were responsible for "the majority of the wickedness that goes on across the globe" was greeted with shock and outrage, especially by white critics who previously embraced the group. 
  • Faced with a major crisis, Chuck D faltered. First he fired Griff, then brought him back, then broke up the group entirely. Griff gave one more interview where he attacked Chuck D and PE, which led to his permanent departure from the group.
  • "Welcome to the Terrordome" caused controversy as its lyrics "still they got me like Jesus" were labeled anti-Semitic by some quarters. 


Moreover, I will also look at Public Enemy's music videos to see if there are any on going themes which could affect the outcome.

Images taken from the official video for 'Harder Than You Think'.

Above we can see the classic cross-hare logo used by Public Enemy.

A lot of the scenes in the video revolved around Chuck D and the members of Public Enemy. 

Reference to the revolution fist which always appears in Public Enemy designs.

Old gig footage relates to the history of the group.


Moreover, I also looked at Public Enemy's past album covers and Vinyl sleeves to see if there was common visual themes regarding colour. 

I noticed that the colours red, orange and yellow were commonly used on the covers of Public Enemy albums. This could be because of the colours association with revolution, a theme that is common in Public Enemy lyrics. When producing my design I will consider using similar colours.

Black is also another colour commonly used on Public Enemy album covers.


Moreover, I have also collected photos of Chuck D and Public Enemy, these could be used for reference if I decided to produce a portrait.


Next, I looked at some of the past 'Secret 7' winners to see if there were any common features the designs shared. I found the winners from last years 'Secret 7' brief created for Ben Howard's track "Black Flies".

A simple but effective hand crafted piece.

Created by Michelle Pegrume.

Created by Colleen Burns.

Watercolour and collage design created by illustrator Holly Exley.

'Maybe you were the ocean when I was just a stone' - Created by Joel Smith.

'No man is an Island, O this I know. But cant you see O, maybe you were the Ocean when i was just a stone' Created by Calum Creasey

Ben Howard enrties taken from.

Finally, I collected research regarding graphics created for albums and vinyls from a book called '1000 Music Graphics' by Stoltze Design.

The limited used of colour and strong illustration make these cover designs really effective. When illustrating my cover design I will remember to use my knowledge of colour theory to ensure my design is striking.

These  cover designs for The Futureheads use scanned in materials to create a rough looking handmade background, something like this would be relevant to Public Enemy and their DIY outlook on the music scene.

Moreover, the collage design in the top right hand corner uses cut up imagery to create the illustration, I could consider producing my cover using a similar way to achieve the hand made effect.

Additionally, these illustrative covers all illustrate similar revolutionary messages to those portrayed in Public Enemy's songs. I want to create an iconic illustration that communicates their revolutionary methodology, and also illustrates the hard work and effort it has taken to get there.

Finally, I want to feature this design that simply illustrates faces using two colours. The limited use of colour keeps the images simple and eye catching, if I produce a portrait of the members of Public Enemy I will create them in a similar way.

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