Friday, August 15, 2014

The Significance Of Public Enemy's "Don't Believe The Hype" To Michael Brown's Shooting Death

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides my editorial statement about what I perceive as an attempted hype by the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department regarding the shooting death of Michael Brown, the eighteen year old unarmed African American who was killed by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014.

The bulk of this post showcases Public Enemy's 1988 Hip-Hop hit "Don't Believe The Hiype" and provides information about Public Enemy, and about that rap, and explanations about some of that rap's lines are also included in this post.

The content of this post is provided for historical, sociological, and cultural purposes.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Michael Brown and all others who have been murdered by police officials. This post is also dedicated to all those who don't believe the hype and who stand up for their rights non-violently for justice in Ferguson, Missouri and throughout the United States.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Public Enemy for their cultural legacy. Thanks to all those whose efforts help shine a light through the hype. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

"Don't believe the hype

Ignore the media, marketing, buzz, or rumors around a story, object or person -- it's nothing special. From the 1988 Public Enemy single "Don't Believe The Hype", which fought back against negative press about the band.

"Is the new Star Wars movie any good?"
"Nah, don't believe the hype"

by stones throw July 31, 2008
With regard to Michael Brown's shooting death, the "hype" is that the policeman was justified in shooting Michael Brown multiple times even after Brown held his hands up high in the air in the universal symbol of surrender because Brown had earlier robbed a store of less than $50 worth of cigars.

"It Doesn't Matter If Michael Brown Stole A Box Of Cigar" By Nick Wing, 08/15/2014 1:12 pm EDT
" [Police officer Darren] Wilson was initially thought to be responding to the crime when he confronted Brown, though Jackson later on Friday clarified that the teen was stopped because he was "blocking traffic" by walking in the middle of the street, and was not a known suspect at the time.

To be sure, any information at all about the day Brown was killed is useful, though the public way in which the police shared the photos of the incident at the convenience store suggest their motive was not public service and transparency, but an effort to shift the discussion to one about Brown's character.

But Brown's character is irrelevant. Brown's potential involvement in a crime doesn't answer the questions that citizens of Ferguson have taken to the streets for the past six days to see answered: How and why did Brown end up dead in the middle of the street? Was Wilson justified in shooting down Brown? Did Brown really assault the officer in his vehicle and reach for his gun, as police claim? Did Wilson fire the fatal shot while Brown had his hands up, as other eyewitnesses claim? How does this incident play into the broader trend of police using excessive force on unarmed black males?"...

"Don't Believe the Hype" is a song by hip hop group Public Enemy and the second single to be released from their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. The song's lyrics are mostly about the political issues that were current in the United States at the time of its release. "Don't Believe the Hype" charted at number 18 on the U.S. R&B chart and also reached a high of 18 in the UK Singles Chart in July 1988.

The B-side includes "Prophets of Rage" and "The Rhythm The Rebel", an a cappella of the opening verse from "Rebel Without a Pause" which was a popular scratching phrase.[1]"...

From ttp://
"Public Enemy is an American hip hop group consisting of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, DJ Lord, The S1W group, Khari Wynn and Professor Griff. Formed in Long Island, New York in 1982, they are known for their politically charged lyrics and criticism of the American media, with an active interest in the frustrations and concerns of the African American community. Their first four albums during the late 1980s and early 1990s were all certified either gold or platinum and were, according to music critic Robert Hilburn, "the most acclaimed body of work ever by a rap act."[1] In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Public Enemy[2] number 44 on its list of the Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[3] The group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.[4] The band were announced as inductees for the 2013 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on December 11, 2012, making them the fourth hip-hop act to be inducted after Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run–D.M.C. and The Beastie Boys"...

SHOWCASE VIDEO: Public Enemy - Don't Believe The Hype

PublicEnemyVEVO, Uploaded on Aug 27, 2010

Music video by Public Enemy performing Don't Believe The Hype. (C) 1988 The Island Def Jam Music Group

(Public Enemy)

Don't, don't, don't
Don't, don't, don't

"Now here's what I want y'all to do for me"

[Verse 1]
Back, caught you looking for the same thing
It's a new thing, check out this I bring
Uhh, oh, the roll below the level, cause I'm living low
Next to the bass, (C'mon!), turn up the radio
They claiming I'm a criminal
But now I wonder how, some people never know
The enemy could be their friend, guardian
I'm not a hooligan, I rock the party and
Clear all the madness, I'm not a racist
Preach to teach to all (cause some they never had this)
Number one, not born to run, about the gun
I wasn't licensed to have one
The minute they see me, fear me
I'm the epitome, a public enemy
Used, abused without clues
I refuse to blow a fuse
They even had it on the news


[Verse 2]
"Yes" was the start of my last jam
So here it is again, another def jam
But since I gave you all a little something that I knew you lacked
They still consider me a new jack
All the critics you can hang 'em, I'll hold the rope
But they hope to the Pope, and pray it ain't dope
The follower of Farrakhan
Don't tell me that you understand until you hear the man
The book of the new school rap game
Writers treat me like Coltrane, insane
Yes to them, but to me I'm a different kind
We're brothers of the same mind, unblind
Caught in the middle and not surrendering
I don't rhyme for the sake of riddling
Some claim that I'm a smuggler
Some say I never heard of ya, a rap burglar
False media, we don't need it do we?
(It's fake that's what it be to ya, dig me?
Yo, Terminator X, step up on the stand
And show these people what time it is boy)


[Verse 3]
Don't believe the hype, it's a sequel
As an equal can I get this through to you
My 98 booming with a trunk of funk
All the jealous punks can't stop the dunk
Coming from the school of hard knocks
Some perpetrate, they drink Clorox
Attack the Black, because I know they lack exact
The cold facts, and still they try to Xerox
The leader of the new school, uncool
Never played the fool, just made the rules
Remember there's a need to get alarmed
Again I said I was a time bomb
In the daytime radio's scared of me
Cause I'm mad, plus I'm the enemy
They can't come on and play me in prime time
Cause I know the time, cause I'm getting mine
I get on the mix late in the night
They know I'm living right, so here go the mike, sike
Before I let it go, don't rush my show
You try to reach and grab and get elbowed
Word to Herb, yo if you can't swing this
Learn the words, you might sing this
Just a little bit of the taste of the bass for you
As you get up and dance at the LQ
When some deny it, defy it, I swing Bolos
And then they clear the lane I go solo
The meaning of all of that, some media is the wack
As you believe it's true
It blows me through the roof
Suckers, liars, get me a shovel
Some writers I know are damn devils
For them I say, don't believe the hype
(Yo Chuck, they must be on the pipe, right?)
Their pens and pads I'll snatch cause I've had it
I'm not a addict fiending for static
I'll see their tape recorder and I grab it
(No, you can't have it back, silly rabbit)
I'm going to my media assassin, Harry Allen -- I gotta ask him
(Yo Harry, you're a writer, are we that type?)
(Don't believe the hype)


[Verse 4]
I got Flavor and all those things you know
(Yeah boy, part two bum rush the show)
Yo Griff get the green, black and red, and
Gold down, countdown to Armageddon
'88 you wait the S1's will
Put the left in effect and I still will
Rock the hard jams, treat it like a seminar
Reach the bourgeois and rock the boulevard
Some say I'm negative, but they're not positive
But what I got to give, (the media says this?)
Red black and green, you know what I mean

[Outro: Flavor Flav]
Yo don't believe that hype
They got to be beaming that pipe you know what I'm saying
Yo them Megas got 'em going up to see Captain Kirk
Like a jerk and they outta work
Let me tell you a little something, man
A lot of people on daytime radio scared of us
Because they too ignorant to understand the lyrics of the
Truth that we pumping into them clogged up brain cells
That just spun their little wooden skulls they call caps
You know what I'm saying?
But the S1s'll straighten it out quick fast in a hurry
Don't worry, Flavor vision ain't blurry, you know what I'm saying?
Yo, Terminator X



These notes are assigned numbers for referencing purposes only. Most of these explanations are my ideas about those words, phrases or lines. Additions and corrections are welcome.

1. "Don't believe the hype" - Read my comment at the beginning of this post. Also, read this comment by Barbara,
"What does Don't Believe The Hype Mean?", 2006
"Don't believe the hype" is saying don't take the advertising at face value, don't buy, or buy into, something just because it's well-promoted; check it out and make your decision based on more reliable and disinterested judgements."

2. "The enemy could be their friend, guardian" - The police can be your enemy.

3. I'm living low, Next to the bass, - This play on words may mean that what is real, the fundamental things in life (the base) are the things the writer considers to be most important.

4. I rock the party - I cause the party to be rocking [alive, invigorating, energized]

5. Clear all the madness - [I] clear out all the things that are maddening

6. "I refuse to blow a fuse" - I refuse to get angry and act violently

7. "def jam" = definitely good record (rap, tune, song)

8. "new jack" = a new kid on the block (a new artist/ rap group)

9. "and pray it ain't dope" -pray that what they believe isn't foolish
Note that "dope" can also mean "very good" in African American Vernacular English, but that's not the correct meaning in that line.

10. "Farrakhan" - Louis Farrakhan is the leader of the religious group Nation of Islam (NOI).

11. "Writers treat me like Coltrane, insane" - renown Jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, whose music some considered to be weirdly unconventional

12. "dig me?" - Do you understand what I'm saying?

13. "Some perpetrate, they drink Clorox" - some pretend to be something they aren't and whiten [bleach (the soul; the blackness) from their words]

14. "still they try to Xerox The leader of the new school" - They try to replicate [copy off of] me, the leader of the new way of spreading correct information

15. "so here go the mike" - so here's the microphone

16. "sike" - I'm just kidding. I didn't mean what I said or did. [This is said informally, in a joking manner.]

17. "some media is the wack" - wack = weak, silly, foolish

18. "it blows me through the roof" - it really makes me angry [ as in the saying "I've had it up to here".]

19. "Some writers I know are damn devils" - very evil

20. "they must be on the pipe" - addicted to something
This may just mean that they are addicted to money and fame

21. "green, black and red, and Gold" and "red, black, and green" - Black nationalist colors

22. "No, you can't have it back, silly rabbit" - a play on the saying from a "Trixs" cereal commercial The rabbit wanted some cereal but was told "Silly rabbit, "Trixs are for kids".

23. Captain Kirk - fictitious character on "Star Trek " television series. Kirk led expeditions to new worlds in out of space, sometimes by the teams being beamed down to those planets and then being beamed back to the starship Enterprise.

24. the S1s'll straighten it out quick fast in a hurry - Sls [?]; "quick fast [and] in a hurry is a commonly heard African American phrase meaning "right away", immediately. Another way of saying that is "with a quickness".

25. "Don't worry, Flavor vision ain't blurry" - This is a witty line as Flavor, a member of Public Enemy wore very thick eyeglasses to correct his vision, but in the context of this line this meant that Flavor sees the truth of what is happening.

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Viewer comments are welcome.


  1. S1 is short for S1W which is the abbreviation for Saviours of the First World. These were the 4 brothers clad in paramilitary uniforms. The line suggests they will deal with ANY situation or threat QUICKLY and EFFICIENTLY. Rwapath

    1. Greetings, Rwapath.

      Thanks for information about the meaning of S1(S1W).

      I take it from your comment that Saviours of the First World are or were a paramilitary organization. I tried to find some information about this group online without any success. Was or is this a real organization and if so, is there any link that you can share about this organization?

    2. Page 68 of this article in 1989 by John Leland is a very detailed history of PE and the S1Ws:

      In some ways, S1Ws and Griff were PE before the group. They made mistakes along the way but as you said, the group has left an important cultural legacy that is still relevant to this day.

  2. Thanks for your work. I am college professor and a student referenced this article and site. It help me help my students connect the dots between media and how we look at race

    1. Greetings ARM18.

      I appreciate your student referring you to this blog post. Please thank your student for me.

      And thank you for letting me and other pancocojams readers know about John Leland's September 1989 article "Do The Right Thing" in Spin Magazine.

      Here's the link for that article:

      Best wishes!