February 17, 2022

Public Enemy - Greatest Misses (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Political Hip-Hop, Conscious Rap
Label Number: 314 523 487-2

© 1992 Def Jam Recordings
It would be unfair to say that 1992's Greatest Misses is where it all began to go wrong for Public Enemy, but it wouldn't be entirely inaccurate. Following Apocalypse 91 by a little less than a year, the album is a jumble of six new songs and six remixes, with a live cut added as a bonus track -- a sure sign that the group was either finding a way to buy time or didn't quite have the energy to finish a full album. The resulting record doesn't indicate which answer is better, which is part of the problem: It never quite comes into focus, which is a startling change in course from a crew who, prior to this, never took an unsure step with their recordings. That lack of direction is what really hurts the record, since it seeps into not just the superfluous remixes (many waterlogged with introductory hot-button talk-show samples), but also the new material. Here, the Bomb Squad and their legions of co-producers -- most prominently the Imperial Grand Ministers of Funk, but also Dr. Treble n Mr. Bass -- sound restrained as they try to move PE away from their signature sonic assault and into newer, soulful territory. To a certain extent, it works on "Hit da Road Jack," but when the Parliament allusions are hauled out on this album's obligatory Flavor Flav showcase, "Gett off My Back," for the first time Public Enemy sound like followers, not leaders. This trouble is compounded by the fact that the tracks where they sound the most comfortable -- "Tie Goes to the Runner," the basketball saga "Air Hoodlum," and the record's best track, "Hazy Shade of Criminal" -- are the ones that sound closest to the band's classic sound, which, at that point, was beginning to sound outdated as hip-hop became ensconced in gangsta. In retrospect, it sounds better -- still not among their best material, but solid genre material nonetheless, with the aforementioned songs (apart from "Gett off My Back") all being satisfying within the sound that PE has developed, even if it's not among their best work. So, Greatest Misses is not the outright disaster that it seemed at the time, but neither is it a lost treasure, since it's just too damn diffuse to be something worthwhile for anyone outside of the dedicated.

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tags: public enemy, greatest misses, 1992, flac,