Public Enemy was the musical guest on last night’s episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, bringing the noise with a gritty rendition of “Grid” from their new album What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down. They brought B Real of Cypress Hill and funk pioneer George Clinton of Parliament/Funkadelic, along with a blinding light show as they imagined a world without electronic devices and 24-hour television networks.
That’s the running theme of their album, which arrived on Def Jam this past Friday — the group’s first full-length project for the label in over 25 years. It dropped after several months of controversy and unrest, both within the band and the world at large, and is just one of many projects that speaks to the unsettling climate of the moment.
Pre-pandemic, it seemed that the group might be splitting up for good as Chuck D announced that Flavor Flav had been “fired” after a dispute over their recent performance at a Bernie Sanders rally in LA. Later, Chuck and Flav used the buzz generated by the headlines about their split to promote a new single, “State Of The Union (STFU),” then their new project, Grid. The new project also features old-school luminaries like Ad-Rock and Mike D of Beastie Boys, Ice-T, and Run-DMC, as well as more contemporary truth speakers Black Thought, Nas, Rapsody, and YG.
Watch Public Enemy’s Late Show performance of “Grid” above.