Saturday, June 25, outside the Lawrence Arts Center
Hip-hop was once considered a fad. Hits by novelty groups like The Fat Boys reinforced the notion. But Public Enemy did away with that misperception.
Revelatory songs like “Bring the Noise” on Public Enemy’s breakout 1988 album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” proved that hip-hop could be as abrasive as artful rock and at least as relevant as any folk singer of protest songs. The commanding emcee Chuck D insisted that Public Enemy is the “Rolling Stones of the rap game” on the classic single “Harder Than You Think.” Given his group’s powerful music and lasting influence, the boast may be an understatement.
Chuck D’s stentorian voice and audacious proclamations might seem pedantic without the goofy interjections of his foil Flavor Flav. Every time Chuck D becomes overbearing, Flavor Flav lets loose with an aside. His catchphrase, “Yeah boy,” never fails to elicit smiles.
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Public Enemy remains a potent force on the verge of its 30th anniversary. Chuck D is an elder statesman of the Black Lives Matter movement and acts as a fierce defender of hip-hop’s idealistic principles. The group’s appearance at the Free State Festival’s free outdoor concert is likely to bolster the devotion of longtime fans and serve as a thrilling history lesson for younger hip-hop heads.
Performances by Hearts of Darkness, Ebony Tusks, Lincoln Marshall and Midnight Marauders will precede the headlining set by the iconic hip-hop group.
6:30-11 p.m. Saturday, June 25, outside the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St. in Lawrence. 785-843-2787. freestatefestival.org. Free.