Public Enemy - Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age

By Lance Swanson "Lance" (Santa Clara, Ca, USA) -

Of course, this Public Enemy masterpiece was dissed by critics upon its initial release, which is a shame because it is one of the fiercest statements about life in America ever made. Chuck D, Flav and Terminator X are in brilliant form on every track---and the themes are PE's most mature yet. Racism, slavery, economic slavery, inner city crime, the war on drugs, corporate government control, poverty, guns, gangsta rap---you name it, PE attacks everything about our violent country and encourages ALL PEOPLE to get together. "Give it Up" is an incredibly groovy anthem that was a massive hit all over the world but was not played by corporate radio in our country, too controversial and uplifting to the masses, I suppose. "What Side you On?" encourages people to be good, peaceful and loving---instead of hateful, evil and spiteful---all to a massive, pulsing beat. "So What You Gonna Do Now" is one Of Chuck D's funkiest grooves, and the furious rapper attacks the gangsta rappers who glorify violence and guns in their songs. One of PE's best cuts. "Ain'tnuttin Buttersong" comments on the violent nature of the National Anthem with incredible clarity and conviction, and asks the listener if he or she is aware of the meaning of the song, which glorifies the use of guns and bombs going off to win a war. Haven't we suffered enough unnecessary deaths at the hands of worthless politicians who send our poor kids off to be massacred in wars for no reason? Chuck's question is a valid one; the song questions singing a song that celebrates killing, thus condemning war in general. All in all, Public Enemy's MUSE SICK-N-HOUR MESS AGE is as grand as any hip hop album ever made. If you listened to critics who initially brushed PE off as a has been, shame on you. Listen to it and decide for yourself. This album belongs in any music lover's collection.
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"A critic...knows the way but cant drive the god damn car", May 20, 2000

By Julian N. Berke (Miami/Chicago) - See all my reviews
I've tried to figure out why the critics (and most hiphop fans i know) hate this one. Chuck D and company take on every facet of America and beyond, in music and message. P.E. transcends restrictive boundaries of expectations of trendy hip hop press and public by incorporating rock, funk, soul while still sounding like no one but P.E. Chuck D's just, intelligent rage burns hotter than ever ("Live and Undrugged"...he really IS in a zone!), and his voice is- fortunately for true fans of his voice and vision- more omnipresent on this album than anything since "Millions" (unlike "Black Planet," where his authoritative boom would be unusually sparse on many songs). The music and vision is varied and intense, the production superb, and Flavor Flav is in good form too. All in all, this album ranks easily among P.E.'s, and hiphop's best. So why did everyone who justly hailed "Millions" dis this album? Whenever a black musician transcends his/her assigned genre, like James Brown did with r&b, or like numerous musicians do with jazz (against the wishes of conservative press), their so-called supporters become their detractors, because the pigeonholes assigned to them no longer apply for purposes of commercial profit. If a jazz musician uses a DJ in their band, or plays rock guitar, people frown. And if Public Enemy uses live musicians or explores themes people say they shouldn't, why does that make this a weak album! True musicians and artists respect and hone their vision for its own value and purpose, not for popularity. So, opening minds vs. fitting expectations, forward progress vs. complacency, black music vs black PRODUCT. you might like this album or you might not, but PE is definitely saying something with "Muse Sick," and before you dis, LISTEN to the cd...and THINK. "WHAT SIDE YOU ON! "

Shockingly underrated, June 24, 2000
By Michael Russell (Philadelphia) - See all my reviews
Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age is an extraordinarily dense and confrontational CD, and the hip-hop press has no excuse for their shameful dismissal of it. They denounced it as tired, messy and behind the times, which must mean that it wasn't dumbed-down to fit the Chronic/Ready to Die sound that had taken over by 1994. Chuck D's hip-hop-Howlin' Wolf delivery is so fierce it still surprises me, especially in "Live and Undrugged," where he reaches a shamanistic fervor that few artists in all of popular music have ever achieved. PE moved away from their usual sample-heavy sound to an equally layered but even more chaotic mix, using far more live instruments and chants. Somehow, Chuck D manages to make himself heard loud and clear above this din. That his poison pen is directed as much at pathology within the African-American community as it is at racism against it may account for much of this CD's continuing unpopularity. "So Whatcha Gone Do Now?" is a lacerating critique of gangsta rap's glamorization of violence and an assertion of dignity that undoubtedly escaped all the music bigshots getting rich selling "Godfather"-style murder fantasies to white suburban kids. "Aintnuttin Buttersong" and "Hitler Day" make most of PE's previous antiracism anthems seem downright congenial by comparison. I was glad to hear that PE had outgrown their old sexist, gay-bashing ways ("beat up on a fagney" and other similarly stupid lyrics), even if their indictment of the World Health Organization for creating and disseminating AIDs is just loopy. Despite occasional flaws such as that, Muse Sick is as vital as It Takes a Nation of Millions or Fear of a Black Planet; to my ears, it's the most powerful mid-90s rap CD. Admittedly, it's very angry and difficult, although it is often spiked with humor; I especially loved "I can't believe it's not butter," a short sampling of that old Steam chant, "Na Na Na Na/Na Na Na Na/Hey Hey Hey/Goodbye," and a hilariously bad Ray Charles imitation.


  • 1  Whole Lotta Love Goin on in the Middle of Hell
  • 2  Theatrical Parts
  • 3  Give It Up
  • 4  What Side You On
  • 5  Bedlam
  • 6  Stop in the Name.
  • 7  What Kind of Power We Got?
  • 8  So Whatcha Gone Do Now
  • 9  White Heaven/Black Hell
  • 10  Race Against Time
  • 11  They Used to Call It Dope
  • 12  Aintnuttin Buttersong
  • 13  Live and Undrugged, Parts 1 & 2
  • 14  Thin Line Between Law & Rape
  • 15  I Ain't Mad at All
  • 16  Death of a Carjacka
  • 17  I Stand Accused
  • 18  Godd Complexx
  • 19  Hitler Day
  • 20  Harry Allen's Interactive Super Highway Phone Call to Chuck D
  • 21  Livin in a Zoo (remix)