Public Enemy have released a harrowing, inspiring new video for “Man Plans, God Laughs,” the punishing title cut off the seminal hip-hop outfit’s recently released 13th LP.
The clip follows a young boy navigating and trying to understand his place in a world rife with violence, an apt illustration of Chuck D’s own existential musings: “Am I radical, am I pacifist? / Am I scared to fight? / I ain’t asking you / Am I grown? Do I stand up? / Am I owned?”
The protagonist is first confronted by a schoolyard bully, whom he knocks out in self-defense. Still, the weight of the act has an empowering effect, and immediately after, the video shows the boy eyeing a police officer in a grocery store parking lot and contemplating an armed robbery. But — ostensibly thinking about the words of a teacher shown in a flashback — the boy puts the gun away and runs. The video ends with him as a grown man, holding his young daughter.
Man Plans, God Laughs follows Public Enemy’s 2012 effort, The Evil Empire of Everything, but also marks the first time since 1991’s Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black that the group worked with just one producer. In this case, Gary “G-Wiz” Rinaldo, who produced PE’s 2007 sleeper hit, “Harder Than You Think.”
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Chuck D said Man Plans was inspired by Kanye West and Rick Rubin’s work on Yeezus, as well as El-P and Killer Mike’s Run the Jewels project and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. But as “Man Plans, God Laughs” and its video suggest, the LP also draws heavily from current events.
“With the situation of unrest in society, and the police brutality issue and what happened in Baltimore, don’t expect no sympathy from the government on the people, especially in the United States,” Chuck D said. “I don’t put any of this on President Obama at all. He inherited a thief that was already in quicksand, and tried to do a good job about not having the thief go under the quicksand. It’s about to really get worse and capsize when he leaves.”