Public Enemy: Hero or villain?


There are many unlikely heroes of the Paralympic Games – from the German-Jewish doctor Ludwig Guttmann who founded them to the Spanish silver-medal-winning swimmer, Sebastian Rodriguez Veloso, the former member of the Communist terror group Grapo paralysed from the waist down as a result of his prison hunger strike.

Many unlikely heroes, but few will have been as shocked to have that status bestowed upon them as Public Enemy, whose song "Harder Than You Think" shot into the UK top five as a result of being blasted all over Channel 4's coverage of the Games.

Yes, that Public Enemy, the US hip-hop group who terrified white Middle America back in the late 1980s and early 1990s with such politically charged anthems as "My Uzi Weighs a Ton", "Don't Believe the Hype", "911 is a Joke" and "Fight the Power".

Yes, that Public Enemy, who were forced to fire their "minister of information" Professor Griff after he told The Washington Post in 1989 that "Jews are responsible for the majority of wickedness in the world".

And, yes, that Public Enemy, whose Flavor Flav – he of the ostentatious timepiece and talent for shouting "Yeah, boy!" – has ricocheted between jail and dodgy reality-TV shows and who has admitted to spending about $2,600 a day on crack cocaine at the height of his addiction.

As I write, no member of Public Enemy has commented on the group's biggest UK hit to date, though Chuck D is aware of the good news having re-tweeted a message informing him about it.

This is not, however, the first time the song has been used to inspire sports people – ESPN used it last year in its coverage of something called the Winter X Games.

But while Public Enemy have waited many years for their deserved moment in the mainstream limelight, it must be noted that the true genius of "Harder …" can all be heard in the Shirley Bassey song "Jezahel", from which it liberally "borrows".