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Album Review | HIP-HOP

Public Enemy still hitting targets on ‘Evil Empire’


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There are a few constants in hip-hop: Nobody beats the Biz, women will always love Cool J, and Chuck D is always going to be angry about something. A quarter century after the group’s debut, the righteous political fury that fueled Public Enemy’s seminal late-’80s albums still burns bright, with ample targets (Mitt Romney, Jay-Z, and Kanye West among them) to be lined up in PE’s proverbial crosshairs. And while it’s naive to think PE will ever have the same impact it did back then, there’s still too many strong moments on “Evil Empire” to dismiss it. Paying tribute to the trademark jagged-edge pastiche sampling from their Bomb Squad heyday, PE confronts the Trayvon Martin shooting with typically fierce intellect on “Beyond Trayvon,” then turns the tables on Throne-watching rap lemmings on the punchy funk of “Notice (Know This).” True, there aren’t many surprises here, but there’s joy in listening to Chuck’s ageless microphone bravado on “Say It Like It Really Is” and even hearing the underused Flavor Flav shovel dirt on reality TV’s evils with more than a pinch of irony on “Broke Diva.” It’s somewhere between urgent and nostalgic, and invariably ticked off as ever. (Out Tuesday) MARTÍN CABALLERO

ESSENTIAL “Say It Like It Really Is”

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