Russell Myrie (Canongate)
In the ’80s Public Enemy rewrote the rules of hip-hop by injecting an incendiary black conscious-raising agenda into the genre — at a time when then US President Ronald Reagan’s policies were devastating black communities — and created a new revolutionary sound. Their impact as a band cannot be diminished and yet Russell Myrie’s somewhat cursory biography manages just that.
Sure, he covers all the bases, charting the band’s rise from their unlikely Long Island roots to the release of ground-shattering album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, which made them world famous.
He also outlines the band’s chief dynamics — with Flava Flav playing court jester to Chuck D’s more sober firebrand — and the conflicts. But for an authorised biography, a reader could expect more depth, more analysis, and more historical context than what’s on offer here.
Chuck D is painted as a one-dimensional saint, with Myrie more intent on polishing the legendary rapper’s halo than giving us any insight into the forces that shaped his militant world view.
For a heavyweight band like Public Enemy, this is a decidedly lightweight bio. ALISON GRINTER