True hip-hop heads, get happy. Public Enemy, with Flav, Griff, and the Bomb Squad, are back. The seminal group's first album in four years serves double duty as the soundtrack for Spike Lee's wack-ass He Got Game, and as you'd figure from the film's B-ball theme, many of the rhymes are directed at the world of sports. Numerous tracks contain direct barbs at NBA commissioner David Stern, while "Politics of the Sneaker Pimps" aims its fury at the major shoe companies and their exploitation of foreign workers. True, longtime fans might have beef with PE's more Puffyesque moves, like obvious samples (Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" on the title track) and choirs, but there's no denying the rage of the message. Against PE's legacy, this disc might fall a bit short. But taken on its own terms, He Got Game gets nothing but net. --Amy Linden
On He Got Game, PE use basketball in the tradition of their other sports metaphors (Chuck's "rhymer in the zone" boast on Muse Sickï¿½N- Hour Mess Age) as the essence of black male aspiration.
"He Got Game" is the hip-hop music soundtrack album to the Spike Lee-directed, Denzel Washington-starring film. It is the first movie soundtrack to feature one rap act exclusively--in this case, genre pioneers Public Enemy. The first Public Enemy album in four years (since 1994's Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age), what is also notable about the album is that members of Public Enemy's founding producers, the Bomb Squad, return to oversee several tracks. The concept album explores the dark side of professional basketball culture and its toll on the largely African-American players in its ranks: The pressure from family, friends and especially big-business interests, leading to what Chuck D calls "a house built off of them skulls and bones" in "House of the Rising Son". The title track is a great meld of hip-hop & classic rock: it samples Buffalo Springfield's "For What it's Worth" and features a guest spot from Stephen Stills himself. Some of the other great songs include "Go Cat Go!" (produced by Meat Beat Manifesto's Jack Dangers), "Game Face" (which hijacks Monty Norman's James Bond theme), "Unstoppable" (with guest vocalist KRS-One) and the gospel-style hook of "What You Need is Jesus". Flavor Flav's bouncy spotlight track is the self-explanatory "Shake Your Booty". The closing track is the spoken-word piece "Game Over", where Professor Griff muses on behalf of the frequently-criticized `hip-hop ballplayer': "Yeah, I got an attitude; How'd you figure?"