Public Enemy at Warehouse Live, 12/27/2013
Nearly 30 years after they bum-rushed their first show, there remains nothing quite like a Public Enemy concert. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers bring a dominating live energy to the stage that is, has been and seems likely to remain unmatched in the annals of hip-hop, more akin to the sensory overload of a heavy-metal concert than a typical rap performance. Whether you're a dedicated hip-hop head or not, Chuck D and the gang are a group you ought to see before you die, lest you go to your grave never realizing how powerful and bombastic rap music can really be in the right hands.
Much of the crowd that showed up at Warehouse Live on Friday appeared fully prepared for what they were about to experience, old enough as they were to remember the group's late-'80s run at the very top of the hip-hop hierarchy. A thick clutch of younger (and in many cases, whiter) fans who may have sadly never seen Do the Right Thing also turned out, ready to find out if it was possible to believe the hype.
A little skepticism was fair: Legends though they may be, Public Enemy aren't exactly spring chickens at this point. Could they really still go?
Before we could find out, a couple of young Texas rappers appeared to warm us up for the onslaught. While any Houston hip-hop aficionado could easily name a dozen or more local artists that would be both incredible and incredibly appropriate to see open up for Public Enemy, what we got instead was a virtual unknown and a guy from Austin. Fortunately, they brought the goods.
Branzil received an introduction from none other than Rocks Off's own Willie D, which certainly got the crowd's attention. The youngster displayed a quick, breathless flow and budding stage presence that belied his absolute lack of notoriety. Later, we'd discover that he's apparently Flavor Flav's godson. With both Willie and Flav in his corner, Branzil might just have the connections he needs to explore his talent on somebody else's dime. One to look out for.
Austin's Phranchyze arrived next to unleash the sharp wit and nimble rhymes that have made him one of the state's most decorated battle-rappers. Particularly impressive was his closing freestyle, in which he managed to name-check both Omer Asik and Case Keenum. Not the most celebrated of Houston sports figures at this moment, perhaps, but you can't say the man doesn't know his stuff.
Talented though the young cats were, any memory of them was completely obliterated by Public Enemy's set. That's no reflection on Banzil or Phranchyze, naturally: PE simply leaves no room left in your brain for anyone else. With a full band and the fierce DJ Lord in tow, the group packs enough sonic firepower to blow your hair back, be it kinky, straight or somewhere in between.
Right off the bat, all the crucial elements that compose Public Enemy were firmly in place. Chuck D was as commanding and authoritative as ever, brandishing a Sharpie like a sword. DJ Lord's scratching absolutely shamed lesser turntablists. The S1W added an air of miltant menace, while the inimitable Flav kept things loose with his happy, off-kilter energy.
Review continues on the next page.