Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet [Def Jam, 1990]
All preemptive strikes to the contrary, this is a much better record than there was any reason to expect under the circumstances. It's not unusually inflated or self-involved, though its brutal pace does wear down eventually, it's got a sense of humor, not just from a Flav who keeps figuring stuff out, but from Chuck, whose "Pollywanacraka" message and voice--people keep bringing in Barry White or Isaac Hayes, but he's playing the pedagogue, not the love man, maybe some Reverend Ike figure--is the album's most surprising moment. And it's no more suspect ideologically than they've ever been, with the anti-Semitic provocation of "Terrordome" and the homophobic etiology of "Meet the G That Killed Me," both objectionable and neither one as heinous or as explicit as it's made out to be, countered somewhat by a clumsy attempt at a pro-woman slant and the spectacularly sure-footed rush of "Terrordome" itself. Shtick their rebel music may be, but this is show business, and they still think harder than anybody else working their beat. A