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*** PUBLIC ENEMY, "He Got Game" soundtrack

April 26, 1998|Def Jam/ PolyGram Brett Johnson

On the last Public Enemy album, 1994's critically panned "Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age," Chuck D, once the most authoritative and insightful voice in hip-hop, sounded more like a resigned war veteran than the revolutionary soldier of his previous recordings.

This soundtrack for Spike Lee's new basketball-themed drama is a comeback of significant proportions. Chuck D has reunited the original Public Enemy (Flavor Flav, Terminator X and Professor Griff) with the Bomb Squad production team that made the group one of pop music's most influential and politically confrontational bands.

On the heels of his underappreciated 1996 solo effort, Chuck D's rejuvenated rhyme-animal persona returns with an inspired collection that dissects the world of black males and their hoop dreams. The title track, which uses riffs from the Buffalo Springfield classic "For What It's Worth" and features Stephen Stills on guitar and vocals, muses on navigating the game of life as the new millennium approaches.

Though it's doubtful that PE will ever return rap to its nation-building glory days, this album proves that Chuck D's poetry can still incite thought, if not action.

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