The grid? I mean, OK, I guess the security and integrity of our electrical infrastructure are important and all. But sheeeeee-it; you’d think Chuck D and Public Enemy could easily have found at least three more topical issues to use as the focus of an album — particularly one that arrives two months before one of the most pivotal presidential elections in U.S. history, and marks their return to Def Jam after more than 20 years to boot.
That off-the-mark title is just the first red flag flying over PE’s 15th release What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down? The second is the cover art, which is basically lifted from 2017’s Nothing Is Quick In the Desert. The third and fourth are the upcycled cuts Fight The Power Remix 2020 and Public Enemy Number Won, which serve primarily as a showpiece for a long list of VIPS like Mike D, Run-DMC, Black Thought, Questlove and plenty more. Sure, that old-school reunion is nice and all, but again, bigger fish, you know? And eventually, the red flags turn into a damn semaphore festival, thanks to far too many plodding midtempo numbers and tracks that just fall flat. Admittedly, once in a blue moon Chuck and Flav manage to rise momentarily to the occasion with a potent rhyme or a pointed political jab. But the rest of the time, What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down? sadly squanders its golden opportunity to be the incendiary and important Public Enemy disc the world desperately needs right now. Don’t believe the hype.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “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. Building from Run-DMC’s street-oriented beats and Boogie Down Productions‘ proto-gangsta rhyming, Public Enemy pioneered a variation of hardcore rap that was musically and politically revolutionary. 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. In the process, he directed hip-hop toward an explicitly self-aware, pro-black consciousness that became the culture’s signature throughout the next decade.
While Public Enemy’s early Def Jam albums, produced with the Bomb Squad, earned them a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they continued to release relevant material up to and beyond their 2013 induction. Now, Public Enemy is back, and is ready to tell the world to once again Fight The Power! Returning to Def Jam after more than two decades, Public Enemy is back and louder than ever! What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down? is the revitalized social justice anthem of 2020 and the body of work is a call to action, inciting justice for the black community. The album features artists such as DJ Premier, Mike D, Ice-T, PMD, Run-DMC and Jahi.”