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Power of Past Is Public’s Own Worst Enemy

** PUBLIC ENEMY; “Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age,” Def Jam/PolyGram

With “It Takes a Nation of Millions . . . " Chuck D. and Flavor Flav brought to vinyl an urgency and Afrocentric intelligence that had never been captured before. That was 1988, and to city and suburban kids alike, a hip-hop revolution not only seemed promising, but necessary.

Six years later, “Muse Sick” lacks PE’s trademark urgency--perhaps a symbol of our times--and is haunted by Chuck’s earlier poetic masterpieces, which cover the “white devil” terrain far more convincingly.

Musically, the new album’s pandemonium is interchangeable with what’s on any other PE release. And although Chuck spends a lot of time lecturing about the trap of self-hate, he then takes cheap shots at gangsta-rappers on “So Watcha Gone Do Now?” where he likens them to “roaches” and raps: “Where I come from / The brothers aren’t dumb.”

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But that’s the paradox of “Muse Sick.” As Chuck D. preaches about awareness of that trap, it sounds as if he’s already admitting defeat--a bleak message for ’94. On “Live and Unplugged” Chuck answers Rodney G. King’s haunting mantra, “Can’t We All Get Along?” with “I doubt it.” Sadly, the revolution never seemed so far away.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).


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