Public Enemy kicked off the 20th annual BET Awards Sunday night with a powerful remix of their 1989 anthem “Fight the Power,” joined by Nas, Rapsody, and The Roots’ Black Thought, along with help from DJ Lord, JAHI, DJ Questlove, Professor Griff and S1Ws.
Opening with a bittersweet a cappella by twelve-year-old Keedron Bryant, who recently went viral with his song “I Just Want to Live,” the performance cut from everyone from their respective (socially distanced) locations to footage of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington DC, and scenes from recent Black Lives Matter protests, proving that 30 years later the epic Fear of a Black Planet hit, also featured in the Spike Lee joint Do the Right Thing, still attests to present times.
After Chuck D’s rebooted opener of “The year is 2020 the number another summer (get down),” it’s handed over to Nas, Rapsody, and Black Thought, who add refreshed lyrics to reflect the current state of affairs—referencing police brutality, the recent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—with D and Flav keeping the “Fight the Power” chant intact.
Siting in a wicker chair, Nas channeled the late Black Panther co-founder, Dr. Huey P. Newtown, while paying homage to the rap pioneers and their anthem: “Yo Chuck, I’m fighting the power right now / Because you, Flav and PE putting it down / Putting your life on the line so I can rap now / The next generation still singing ‘Fight the Power.'”
On June 19, Juneteenth, Public Enemy released their first single since 2017’s Nothing Is Quick in the Desert, the DJ Premier-produced “State of the Union (STFU),” a penetrating track calling for the prompt removal of the current president.