No Sell Out and PE

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By Frank James IV

I got a text from a good friend, David telling me to check the comments on my Instagram account. I did and I had received a like from Public Enemy for a post of the beginning of the Fight The Power video.  I smiled and felt proud as the memories came back.  I remember the first time I heard the words No Sell Out!  Well, the first time that these words resonated with me in my spirit.  I had just bought Public Enemy’s new cassette, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. Of course, I had heard Rebel Without a Pause and it had already become one of my top three rap songs.  I had discovered PE when a friend JF who was a DJ first played Public Enemy number 1.  This was when rap was beginning to hit its plateau.  I don’t care what anybody says from 1985 – 1992 were the glory days of rap music.  This was the time when an MC had to be able to flow and do more than moan like a bi&%.  But, I digress.  Chuck D had hit my radar with lyrics that had me tripping, “Kicking like Bruce Lee’s Chinese Connection.”  Chuck D was simply the man at the time. So when I heard PE’s new album was out I raced out to get it.  I remember sitting in the basement of my mother’s house and popping the cassette into my trusty boom box and pushing play.  True to form PE came in hard with Bring The Noise. I sat back on my bed and listened to the entire cassette greedily absorbing what PE was talking about.  I flipped the cassette on side two. All the songs were resonating with me and the beats were intense and mind piercing.  Then I heard, “Get in that cell nigger!…I got a letter from the government the other day I opened and read it, it said they suckers!” Everything changed.  

My DaliCo clock that I bought in 1988.

I later called the song, and referred to it with my partners for years as, “A Letter from the Government.”  In reality, the song is called, Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.  I was a PE fan before and after hearing the song, forever.  Chuck D had opened another section of my mind that had been closed. I always knew black people were more than they allowed themselves to be.  PE sparked me to go get the information and knowledge to change this belief into knowledge.  As I sat in the basement Chuck took me through the plight he rapped about in Black Steel.  Then Chuck said the words that changed my life and became my life motto.  “…to get out to the ghetto, no sellout! Six CO’s we got we ought to put their head out!”  No Sellout.  Two words or three if you put a space in between sell and out.  No sellout was my mental rallying cry when things became tough being a proud black man in the USA.  I was determined not to sell out.  I have had a wild ride for the past few decades but I’d like to think I never sold out.  Has everything been peaches and creme? No. But, I haven’t sold out mentally or spiritually, at least not to my knowledge.  My first book is titled, No Sellout! Ten Years In The Life of A Black Man.  I have a six-CD changer in my truck.  There are three CD’s that never come out.  One is, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. Public Enemy or as Chuck D says, “The enemy’s public they rarely give a damn!” will always dominate social conscious rap music on a level few can match.  These new hip hop artists speaking in one-syllable words and female whines may vibe to the 2020 hip hop scene.  But, to a true RAP connoisseur, these fools need to take this advice, “The voice of power is in the house! Go take a shower boy!” Public Enemy For Life!

Frank James IV is  An Author, Film Director, Educator, And Motivational Speaker

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