Legendary rap group Public Enemy will perform in the O2's indigO2 venue this November. Two of the original threesome, Flavor Flav and Chuck D, will be accompanied on stage by DJ Lord, who joined the group in 1999 after original member Terminator X quit.
Rappers don't grow old, they just become less relevant. In their late 80s / early 90s pomp, Public Enemy were essential listening, throwing lyrical bombs at the authorities whilst criticising the capitalist-industrialist complex and making it sound funky in the process. Though their militant politics tended to drag them into some uncomfortable positions on matters such as the Nation of Islam and the Israel / Palestinian conflict, their sheer exuberance and utter seriousness drew them a huge following and cemented hip hop as a major force in popular music; they were effectively the midwives to rap's political rebirth, and when Chuck D referred to his group as the 'black CNN', people believed him.
Yet with political rap (or political music of almost any kind) no longer bothering what passes for the charts or dorm bedrooms nowadays, Public Enemy can only make headlines through farcical means. It was almost beyond parody last year when a Washington Post journalist, in a moment that seemed like the basis for an article in The Onion, mistakenly interpreted their 1990 single 911 Is a Joke as an insult to the memory of those who died in the 9/11 attacks.
Still, classic albums It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear Of A Black Planet still have the power to shock, surprise, and discomfit even the politically unengaged modern listener. And the prospect of the three tearing up the house with the fire of old in their bellies is, for a certain breed of rap fan, probably too good to miss.
Public Enemy, at indigO2, 14th November 2010. Tickets from £30