Enemy Radio - Loud is Not Enough (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Enemy Radio

Loud is Not Enough (2020)


Without question, America is more divided then it has been in decades. Worse, the leadership is polarizing the population into us vs. them more than any president in modern history. Disinformation is at an all time high (and is dispatched from the leadership itself in a manner frighteningly similar to that of Kim Jung Il). The Free Press is being shackled and blocked from attending White House dispatches unless they submit to the official executive press release (which contradicts itself on a daily basis).

So, what better time for the keystone political Hip Hop group to come back, booming a righteous sound and uniting the common man for a common good? The stage was all set for Public Enemy.

It’s too bad they stumbled. Hard. And then misfired. It’s no secret that PE mastermind Chuck D and PE co-founder Flavor Flav have been locking horns since Flavor of Love (at least). And, it’s no secret that it erupted a few years ago with the release of the excellent Nothing is Quick in the Desert album, wherein Flav claimed to have not been paid for his work. The latest combustion involved the Bernie Sanders rally where Chuck and Flav once again battled over whether “Public Enemy” endorsed Sanders or just Chuck D did.

Instead of simply saying “Flav and I aren’t getting along right now”, Chuck D let everyone forget about the Sanders-clash for a month... and then invented a miscalculated story so poorly executed that it doomed the new album from the start. It doesn’t help that the album feels a little sluggish.

On April 1, Chuck announced that he and Flav actually were getting along, that this was all a hoax to elevate Flav’s fame, that the other purpose of the hoax was to show that the media was inaccurate, that he had a new group called Enemy Radio (that he previously called Public Enemy Radio), that Enemy Radio was composed of all the members of Public Enemy except Flav and Professor Griff and that it also included Jahi who has toured as PE 2.0, and, finally, that “Enemy Radio’s” debut single was the mouthful-title “Food as a Machine Gun”, which confusingly featured Public Enemy.

If that seems like a hinky-jinky story, it is. Proving the same, Flav blew the whole thing over with a single tweet stating that Chuck’s complex and confusing “hoax story” was entirely false and that he wanted no part of it.

The whole mess was disheartening because Chuck D has historically positioned himself as a beacon of truth in a world of lies. Except here, not only did Chuck D totally discredit himself by not only lying, but by getting nailed on said lie (quite easily, too) and then failing to control the lie with another miscalculated lie. Further, he proved that the media (his claimed target) was indeed accurate – the anthesis of the point he was trying to make. Sadly, the keep-lying-until-people-get-exhausted-challenging-you strategy has also been used by a certain president. One never wants to put that guy in the same boat as the mighty Chuck D

So, you’d be hard pressed to find an album that arrived on a more rickety frame than Loud is Not Enough. (The LL Cool J cover homage is nice, though). It would be one thing if the album blew the roof off in the current mess-age. But, unfortunately, it’ll wind up being footnote for hardcore collectors only.

To Chuck D’s credit, the rhymes here are compact and intricate as ever. Chuck D considers his words and finds the best way to lock them together before putting them to tape, and his lyrics are tightly crafted and coated in barbs. And, he hasn’t waivered on his mission- hitting the cornerstones of his historic topics. “Man Listen” merges classic soul references with sports talk as a vehicle for attacking systemic oppression. “Last Stand Caravan” warps “this land is your land” to a poignant message. There’s nothing especially new here, but that’s the point- the PE message is as relevant as ever.

It’s just too bad that nothing here really catches. For one thing, it’s one of PE’s… or ER’s… most mellow albums. Instead of the rumbling charge of It takes a nation of millions or the sonic explosion of Fear of a black planet, the album is composed of mid-level classic drum samples with relatively spacious sound effects. That might work if the songs hit harder, but everyone here seems to be in mid-gear. Even the wonderful soul power of How do you sell soul is missing. Where that album felt like PE refreshing themselves with their classic source, here, it kind of just seems to be “here’s some more PE type songs.”

Thankfully, Chuck D doesn’t try to replace Flav with a Flav clone- surely that would be as big a misstep as the whole hoax thing. Instead, we have Jahi, who is a perfectly serviceable emcee. But, whereas Flav was the perfect foil to Chuck - chaos versus order- Jahi follows Chuck D’s cadence and echoes Chuck D’s sentiments. We don’t need two Chuck D’s. We already have one. This isn’t Jahi’s fault, mind you- he’s just doing what he is asked to do, and he does it pretty well. But, it does underscore how much Flav really did bring to the group – excitement, unpredictability, and maybe most importantly, fun.

The one track here that does include Flavor, the difficult to parse “Food as a Machine Gun” features two Flav lines repeated throughout the tracks. It would not be surprising at all if these lines came from some long lost recording session and were repurposed. No one in the group seems to care very much about the track. As important as the message may be – corporations are feeding us cheap food with the intent of killing us or causing medical issues for profit – it’s lost in the simile.

The album itself, when disconnected from its background, isn’t a disaster. Were this album to arrive without the associated drama and with Flav, it would be an acceptable entry in a catalogue full of classics and “pretty good” LPs. But, you can’t discount that the album is built off a lie, forged by a man who made his name by telling the truth. One of the most famous PE tracks is the kicking “911 is a Joke”, due, in part, as to how it told a true story in a relatable fashion, with a small amount of gallows humor. There’s no track here that hits all of those marks and there's no question why that’s the case.

Every band is entitled to a misstep here or there. Were Chuck D to simply ignore the Flav issue and kick this out as a Chuck D solo album, we wouldn’t even be here. Hopefully, the group will recover and come back to their full glory (my money says they will). But, until then, don’t feed us some B.S. about a “hoax”.