911 IS A JOKE by Public Enemy (1990): HAPPY BIRTHDAY FLAVOR FLAV!

The Flav was born on March 16, 1959…And I was born on a March 16, too!

My favorite PE song is not Fight the Power, Don’t Believe The Hype, or My Uzi Weighs a Ton.  I love all those cuts, but my favorite isn’t even a Chuck D. song.  It’s Flavor Flav’s solo track from their best-selling album, Fear of a Black Planet.  What’s sad is that the song was written a quarter of a century ago, but it’s stories about the lack of timely police and ambulance responses in poorer and largely minority areas are still accurate. 

Why is it great?  For one thing, it’s a dense whirlwind of weirdness, combining Vincent Price’s evil laugh from the end of Michael Jackson’s Thriller with Flav’s phlegmy, sarcastic laughter; the dense samples and heavy basslines characteristic of producers Keith Shocklee and Eric Sadler, and the urgent political message of all of Public Enemy’s great songs.  It’s even got a sample of Eddie Murphy!

Rap these days lacks a real political undercurrent.  Sure, there are some rappers who are still doing it, but most of it is about dancing, partying, or “look how great I am.”  This song is a reminder of how powerful it can be.

Further listening: Cold Lampin’ with the Flavor, Bring the Noise, Fight the Power.

Cover versions:

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