public enemy

Riot on the Set: How Public Enemy Crafted the Anthem 'Fight the Power'

Publication: Rolling Stone
Author: Kory Grow
Date: June 30, 2014

“We needed an anthem,” Spike Lee said. “When I wrote the script for Do the Right Thing, every time when the Radio Raheem character showed up, he had music blasting. I wanted Public Enemy.”

The director may have asked for an anthem for his 1989 chronicle of big-city racial tensions, but what he got was a salvo. A quarter of a century has passed since Radio Raheem’s boom box served as a megaphone to a generation, spreading Public Enemy’s rap reveille over and over again in the movie, but “Fight the Power” has not lost an ounce of its revolutionary power or poignancy. Chuck D’s lyrics praising freedom of speech and people uniting while decrying racist icons still sound just as vital as anything Pete Seeger wrote, and production team the Bomb Squad’s ultra-modern collage of funk and noise for the track has never been replicated. The fact that Public Enemy made multiple versions of the tune – including the Branford Marsalis–infused, free-jazz cut for the movie and the more straight-ahead approach on their 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet – only shows the versatility of the song’s message.

To celebrate the legacy of the tune, and its impact both in and out of movie theaters 25 years later, Rolling Stone caught up with Lee, Marsalis and Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav and the Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee and found out how they made an anthem.

How did Branford Marsalis get involved?
Branford Marsalis: I think it was Spike’s idea. I don’t feel at that the time that P.E. or Hank would have been suddenly compelled to use a saxophone.

Shocklee: I wanted to have a sax in the record but I didn’t want it in a smooth, melodic fashion; I wanted someone to play it almost like a weapon, and Branford was the guy. 

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Submitted by Courtney on June 30th, 2014 — 11:42am

Branford Marsalis: I’m a MF Musician!

Publication: iRockJazz.com
Author: Matthew Allen
Date: June 10, 2013

“I don’t use songs as a vehicle to glorify myself. I’m going to play whatever is required to make the song successful.” These are the words of Branford Marsalis. He’s a man that understands that it’s not all about him. Considering the big names he’s played with from Sting to Gang Starr, and all the hit songs he’s played on, it’s a wonder that he hasn’t gotten a big head, but the truth is that in the realm of jazz, it’s easy for some to get caught up in their own ideas and try to show them off to whomever is listening. Marsalis, however, takes no part in that line of thinking, and it’s a main reason why he’s been as successful as he has and why he continues to grow and educate others in that the music is more important than the musician.

Marsalis has long considered himself as a musician rather than as a saxophonist. In his mind, there is a big difference between the two in that a musician is someone that knows what it takes to make a song reach its highest potential, even if it means not playing as fast as one can or as many notes as is possible. “For the instrumentalist, the instrument is the center of their life; for a musician, the music they play is the center of their life,” Marsalis explains to iRockJazz. “In order to play music and communicate with people you have to have something in common with people. Most people don’t spend eight hours a day or four hours a day in a little cubicle working on complicated devices to play on stage. ”

Marsalis spent his childhood playing in funk bands as part of the horn section and grasped the concept of knowing his role. This method of thinking led him to lend his instrument saxophone to some of the biggest recordings of the late 21st century, such as Shanice’s pop smash “I Love Your Smile” and Public Enemy’s iconic anthem “Fight the Power.” “First of all, I don’t go up there playing jazz solos. I employ jazz sensibilities and it’s unique and it’s different in the way it sounds, but I understand my role in that situation.”