Elvis Presley & Public Enemy – From Elvis in Memphis (1969) and Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black (1991)
exemplary artwork by sarca @ caughtmegaming
Into the Black Artists #4 & #5: Elvis Presley & Public Enemy
(Elvis’s Long Black Limousine & the PE album title)
[Albums 436 & 437/1001]
Some might say these artists could not be more different.
I say, perhaps to the chagrin of the PE, they could not be more inextricably linked.
Out of respect for your time, I’ll only focus on a handful of the parallels with these 2 records.
Legacy = Cemented
A decade earlier, Elvis was a hero to most. By the late 60s, his stock wasn’t exactly skyrocketing. Following a myriad of mediocre movies, the message was clear with the release of From Elvis in Memphis: to quote Rafiki in the Lion King, the King has returned.
In the case of Public Enemy, don’t call Apocalypse a comeback; they’d been here 4 years. Album #4 was more a case of retaining than reclaiming past glory.
In both cases, mission accomplished.
The Last Hurrah
As the 1969 tune Spinning Wheel observed, what goes up, must come down; these albums represent the final peak for each artist.
Did it seem like the beginning of the decline at the time? I’ll never know, as I’m experiencing both for the first time in 2015.
But dissecting it after the fact, perhaps there were clues.
Bizarre Track 12 Choices
Now a song about a vicious cycle of poverty, crime, and violence “in the ghetto” would not have surprised me on a Public Enemy CD. It did catch me off guard however as the closing track from Elvis. It’s not a bad song per se and it’s an irrefutably important topic. It’s just such a curious choice for a closing track; the song was a lyrical left turn in the running order and Elvis just seemed like a strange choice for the narrator.
Sort of like having Flavor Flav discussing ethical journalism in A Letter To The New York Post. I see his point about newspapers selling papers by starting controversy and cashing in on his fame (see Axl Rose’s Get in the Ring rant, also from 1991). In Flav’s case however, his response to allegations of domestic abuse made, to borrow a Chuck D line, ‘no GD sense at all.’ For the first time I could recall, PE seemed unconvincing, and that was a crack in the armor I didn’t expect to see.
And In The End
However curious, neither track could derail its parent album.
The masses had good reason to eagerly welcome Elvis back again (even if he never meant much to Chuck D). Apocalypse’s critical and commercial success was equally well-deserved.
Though I wouldn’t crown either of these records as album of their respective years, it’s more a reflection of the strength of their release years (’69 and ’91) than any weakness in the records.