Public Enemy Drops Their First Album With Def Jam in 26 Years

Public Enemy frontman Chuck D spoke with Billboard about the album.

On Friday, Public Enemy dropped their 15th studio album, What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? The project features guest appearances from Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, YG, and Questlove.

When the Grid Goes Down is their first releases on Def Jam since appearing on the soundtrack for Spike Lee’s 1998 film He Got Game. It’s their first studio album with the label since 1994’s Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age. Chuck D spoke with Billboard about the group returning to the label.

“Public Enemy has come back as a visitation,” he explained. “The statement of Public Enemy and anything we do is always for other artists to be the best to explore themselves and for their artistry, and hopefully change the world or speak to the world.”

According to Chuck, Flavor Flav played a big role in the group’s return. “He said, ‘listen I think we should do something with Def Jam’ and he’s 50 percent of the say-so,” Chuck said during the All That Matters conference. “For years I spoke on building things online and independently, but in this situation he said, ‘I think we need to do this for a couple of times,’ and I had to pay attention to that. So here we are.”

The album is a collaborative effort, also featuring contributions from Ice-T, George Clinton, Cypress Hill and surviving members of the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC.

“It’s a big kumbaya type of thing,” Chuck D says. “We all came through the trenches together…Ringo Starr did a song when I was a kid called ‘Get By With a Little Help from My Friends.’ That’s pretty much what this is all about.”

Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down (Tracklist)

  1. When the Grid Goes Down (Feat. George Clinton)
  2. Grid (Feat. Cypress Hill and George Clinton)
  3. State of the Union (STFU) (Feat. DJ Premier)
  4. Merica Mirror (Feat. Pop Diesel)
  5. Public Enemy Number Won (Feat. Mike D, Ad-Rock and Run-DMC)
  6. Toxic
  7. Yesterday Man (Feat. Daddy-O)
  8. Crossroads Burning (Interlude) (Feat. James Bomb)
  9. Fight the Power: Remix 2020 (Feat. Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, Jahi, YG and Questlove)
  10. Beat Them All
  11. Smash the Crowd (Feat. Ice-T and PMD)
  12. If You Can’t Join Em Beat Em
  13. Go At It (Feat. Jahi)
  14. Don’t Look at the Sky (Interlude) (Feat. Mark Jenkings)
  15. Rest in Beats (Feat. The Impossebulls)
  16. R.I.P. Blackat
  17. Closing: I Am Black (Feat. Ms. Ariel)
Torry Threadcraft

Torry Threadcraft is a writer who covers music, sports, and culture. You can find his daily ramblings and culinary takes at @dreadcraft.

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