In 1987, it was the end of the world as we knew it, and Chuck D wasn’t in love. The good news is that some 10 years later it’s still the end of the world as we know it, and Chuck D’s still not in love. On He Got Game, Public Enemy’s sixth album and their strongest effort since Fear of a Black Planet (1990), the group is still (often rightfully) disgruntled with the status quo. They continue their crusade against the usual assortment of “devils,” corporations and deceivers, fusing their message into a rap opera of sorts that turns an analytical eye toward the state of the union in the worlds of basketball and hip-hop. Chuck D takes on the players and the playees of basketball and hip-hop early and often on He Got Game, never dumbing down his commentary, using the dull side of his lyrical blade or holding back on how he really feels.
For example, the album’s first track, “Resurrection,” outlines the importance of the group’s comeback by saying that PE is engaging in “a battle for your mind like Israel and Palestine” and telling listeners that their return is “good news in some fucking hard-ass times/No more disses/repeated hook lines and choruses.” And when Chuck spits out “white man’s burden be a black man’s dream” in the scorchingly-hot “Go Cat Go,” he’s bound to send a hip-hop nation of lyrical analysts back to the history books to see what he’s so pissed about.
The Bomb Squad have had years of influences since the last release, and the result is a new sound for the group which sways from the acid-rock grunge of “Is Your God A Dog” to the excellent, Wu-flavored funk of “Unstoppable,” a track that features a remarkably subdued, yet still effective, appearance by KRS-One. Many of the songs here are a lot slower-paced than we are accustomed to hearing from PE, but the slow-burning anger on such songs as “Game Face” and “Politics of the Sneaker Pimps” more than makes up for it. There is no song here that threatens to blast off into the stratosphere like such PE classics as “Night Of The Living Baseheads,” “Bring The Noise,” “Fight The Power” and “Can’t Truss It,” and that’s the only thing that keeps this offering from exploding.