Show Review: Public Enemy at Yoshi’s SF, 1/14/2011

by David Price on January 17, 2011


Yoshi’s might not be a typical spot for a hip-hop show, especially one that can incite the kind of passion that Public Enemy can. However, recalling that Public Enemy put out their first record nearly 24 years ago, Yoshi’s might actually be the perfect place for one of the undisputed best Hip-Hop groups to Bring the Noise.

This being the first of 4 shows in two nights, set times were obviously limited, and Chuck D explained how compressing 24 years of music with nearly 200 songs was going to be difficult for their nearly 90 minute set. “We’re gunna do this like a football team. Two-minute drill.” Chuck D explained as he ran eagerly on stage.

Chuck was joined by turntablist DJ Lord, militant looking guys, thankfully lacking their Uzi’s, of the S1W and head of the Security of the First world Professor Grif who is eternally the guy standing in the back, seldom heard from.

With the format set for the no more than 300 people in attendance, the one and only Flavor Flav emerged on stage. Flav rocked the most fashionable accessory of his youngest son in his arms as he began what would be a non-stop energy laced set. Flav’s flair never seems to die.  His electric personality draws you in, which is great for a night like tonight where seemingly the farthest removed fan is only an arm’s lengths a way.

PE’s set plays as you’d expect: top ten singles linked together by Chuck D telling the live band “Yo! Yo! Stop Stop Stop!” to end a song or by Chuck enlightening the crowd with a politically motivated heart-felt gem of information. The set list would be hard for anyone to shake a stick at, mainly due to the fact that Chuck and Flav could cover Clay Aiken and it would rock!

It’s hard to believe that Chuck D and Flavor Flav are both into their 50’s now. They command the stage like 20-year-olds. It’s clear that Chuck and Flav appreciate the intimacy offered within the size of Yoshi’s as they take turns working opposing sides of the stage connecting with the crowd giving hand shakes, fist pumps and hi-fives. Chuck continually takes cameras out of crowd members’ hands and takes pictures of the fans with their own cameras. For 90 minutes they go all out working the crowd like the world class hip-hop group that they are. PE simply makes current Hip-Hop look like utter crap; no one can come close to working a crowd like PE can.

Public Enemy embodies true Hip-Hop. They proudly support the five points of Hip-Hop: B-Boying, Graffiti, rapping, DJ’ing and Knowledge. The five points clearly have not been lost or diluted over the years. These five aspects that definitely have been lost on to current generations of Hip-Hop. Their live show certainly illustrates rapping, DJ’ing and Knowledge: head and shoulders above every other touring Hip-Hop act on the planet and possibly one of the greatest living Hip-Hop acts.

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