Album: He Got Game
Public Enemy reunited in 1998 to once again soundtrack a Spike Lee joint, He Got Game. The title song, which has Chuck D and Flavor Flav delivering laid-back rhymes over Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” showed that the band could update their sound without sacrificing their hard-hitting style.
The album was the last the group would make with Def Jam. They split with the label after 12 years and six studio albums. While there was speculation at the time that Public Enemy gotten too political for Def Jam, the true reason turned out to be much less high minded. In an interview with Perfect Sound Forever. Chuck D explained that the split was financially motivated. “One of the things that made me want to leave was the fact that Def Jam went from Sony to Polygram, they were sold. I thought that Public Enemy and LL Cool J were integral parts of Def Jam’s existence and that we at least deserved 2 1/2 points of the deal. We didn’t get it and all that talk of us being family was just bullshit. I said ‘f*** that, I’m outta here. Find me a taxi and execute this contract.’”
The band has, more or less, been on their own ever since. They signed briefly to the Atomic Pop label, where they were on the vanguard of the digital-only format, releasing their 1999 album There’s a Poison Goin’ On online. Public Enemy then released three albums on Chuck D’s label, Slam Jamz, including 2007’s loud, charming How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul???
Now, after 25 years, Public Enemy is still finding new topics to rail against. “Every record that Public Enemy has done is different from one another. We’re always going to try to be topical so we always pick topics that are going to be different,” Chuck D said. “There’s different topics for every album and different sounds on every album. It’s inevitable. The larger detail remains the same though — I’m always fighting something.”