ENEMY TERRITORY: Is Public Enemy's time over? Chuck D. and crew rank as the most acclaimed rap group ever, but the initial reviews of its upcoming album, "Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age," are anything but respectful. Both Rolling Stone and the Source, the top hip-hop music monthly, slammed group leader Chuck D. for being out of touch with rap's currents--and there's nothing worse in hip-hop than charges of irrelevance.
The Source's James Bernard wrote that Chuck D. refuses "to accept that his revolution is over," while Rolling Stone's Toure calls the collection "not only a bad PE record but a bad hip-hop record." Both make mention of Chuck D.'s age (34) and take him to task for what they deem ineffectual lyrics criticizing gangsta rap.
With the album's release having been pushed back to mid-August, those first sour tastes will be on fans' tongues for more than a month before they actually get to hear the music and judge for themselves.
How does PE's team plan to counter the negative impressions?
"I haven't even read the Rolling Stone review," says Lyor Cohen, the CEO of Def Jam and Rush Communications, the record and management companies that handle PE. "It has not impacted our strategy for this album whatsoever."
Leyla Turkkan, PE's former publicist, who is still closely tied to the group, says the best strategy to counter the reviews is simple.
"What they have to do is tour," she says. "Public Enemy is the best live rap group and one of the best live acts of any kind, period."
The only problem: PE doesn't plan to hit the road until November.