Song of the Day #3,888: ‘By the Time I Get to Arizona’ – Public Enemy

Welcome to the early 90s and the latest edition of my Decades series, wherein I look at the albums released in a given year in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. Most recently I’ve covered 1971 and 1981, which brings us to our current focus: 1991.

This is the year I turned 19, and a time when I was actively buying new music. It was also a very strong year for album releases in general. So I will spend more time than usual on 1991 releases — three weeks on my own favorites from the year and another two or three weeks on critically acclaimed albums I don’t know well.

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Song of the Day #3,174: ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ – Public Enemy

I’m traveling back in time to 1990 again this week, with better results, I hope. Last week’s batch of critically-acclaimed albums leaned toward the loud and anti-melodic. Was this pop culture’s reaction to the Reagan years?

Kicking off this week is another loud and anti-melodic album, but one from a group I admire and at least occasionally enjoy. Public Enemy followed up their seminal 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back with Fear of a Black Planet, another burst of righteous defiance.

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Song of the Day #1,298: ‘Fight the Power’ – Public Enemy

Public Enemy was the first rap group to catch my attention. That was thanks to their prominent role in Spike Lee’s classic 1989 film Do the Right Thing.

If you’ve seen the film, you no doubt remember the vibrant opening credits sequence, in which newcomer Rosie Perez danced solo to Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ against a colorfully lit stage backdrop of a city street. This song burst into my brain the same way the movie did.

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