The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

Jay Z, Eminem, Tupac, Biggie and more

Public Enemy, 'Fight the Power'
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Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns7/50

7. Public Enemy, 'Fight the Power'

Fear of a Black Planet, 1990

Public Enemy's co­-producer Hank Shocklee said the group wanted their track for Spike Lee's explosive movie Do the Right Thing to have a "defiant, aggressive, 'I'm not gonna take it' feeling." They nailed it: No band since the Sex Pistols had pushed pop music's sonic and political possibilities as far as Public Enemy did on "Fight the Power." Chuck D blasted "straight-up racist" institutions like Elvis, John Wayne and the U.S. Postal Service, and the Bomb Squad layered samples over samples (James Brown, the Dramatics, Bob Marley) into implosive war-dance funk. With a frenetic­ protest-rally-themed video shot by Lee in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, the song was the total in-your-face package. In the summer of 1989, it seemed like it might start a revolution.

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