Public Enemy’s latest fits in, thematically, with its best

Mike Pizzo

Three stars

Public Enemy Man Plans, God Laughs

On Man Plans God Laughs—Public Enemy’s first release since 2012’s The Evil Empire of Everything and 2013’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—Chuck D plays the elder statesman well: “You’re 20, 30, 40? I’m 55/Double nickel, stick to cell like sickle.” His louder-than-a-bomb vocals echo the sentiment of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, yet it’s one he’s been prophesying and raging about since the early ’80s.

He sarcastically alters classic rock song titles to fit his own message—“No Sympathy From the Devil” and “Give Peace a Damn,” surely to the ire of some aging Rolling Stones and John Lennon fans. It doesn’t always work however, as on the Stones’ riff “Honky Talk Rules,” which finds Chuck and Flav teaming for a tongue-in-cheek country tune. Yet this forgettable misfire fits right in with Public Enemy’s M.O. of making the listener feel uncomfortable. As Chuck told me in 2014, “I think that anybody can rock something that they can feel. I like the challenge of making something good out of something that might be difficult.”

For much of the rest of the album, produced by longtime Bomb Squad member Gary G-Wiz, the noise is still brought, but the group’s famed chaotic sample collages are long gone. The album’s finest moment is actually its most somber one, the reflective title track, which repeats, “Do it for the culture, do it for the youth,” even if it’s falling on deaf ears.

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