“Public Enemy No. 1” – Public Enemy
Holy crap! Always the best live act in hip hop, Public Enemy can still throw down nearly thirty years after releasing their first album.

As I watched this, especially the closing moments when Jimmy Fallon comes on stage, I thought back to where the music and TV worlds were when Yo! Bum Rush The Show came out in 1987. Public Enemy was not, nor was any other hip hop act, getting invited onto The Tonight Show. Even Arsenio Hall, who was just getting started, wasn’t going to invite acts like PE on for a few more years. If anything, Johnny Carson was the entertainment embodiment of everything Chuck D was rapping about when it came to the dominant white culture.1

But in 2014, not only does PE get invited onto The Tonight Show, but the host greets them warmly, quoting their lyrics. And, most amazingly, Chuck D. gives Fallon a big, friendly hug.

We’ve come a long way.

  1. Which is a little ironic since Carson was a noted liberal. He probably wasn’t down with “militant” blacks, but he certainly was a reserved voice for civil rights and a more inclusive society.