Public Enemy’s invasive beats and fiery lyrics stirred up fear in parents and teachers everywhere, including those in the border town of Laredo, Texas, home of the future founders of the Latin funk soul group, Brownout. The band’s latest album, “Fear of a Brown Planet,” is a musical tribute to Public Enemy’s revolutionary music. Texas Standard Host David Brown spoke to the two founders of Brownout, Adrian Quesada and Beto Martinez.
The Public Enemy-influenced manifesto isn’t Brownout’s first tribute to those who inspired them. Their second album, “Brown Sabbath,” is a testimonial to the “godfathers” of metal, Black Sabbath. Quesada says that after “Brown Sabbath,” they wanted to work on new material.
“After we did the “Brown Sabbath” project, we released an EP of original materials, kind of tongue-in-cheek titled “Over the Covers.” We wanted to come back to work on our own, original music,” Quesada says. “…We got approached by the legendary hip-hop label called Fat Beats Records about doing a tribute to Public Enemy. It was too good to turn down. It sounded like too much fun and too cool of an opportunity, so we did that and the obvious title was “Fear of a Brown Planet.””
The group says that no one understood the impact that Public Enemy would have when they were producing music in the late ‘80’s and ‘90’s, especially in Laredo.
“At the time, I was a huge metal fan and it took me a little bit longer to get into hip-hop, but there was some crossover stuff that Public Enemy did with Anthrax that I was really into,” Martinez says.
“There were people that were into heavy metal, there were people that were into punk-rock and skate-punk, I was more into that,” Quesada says. “I was exposed to [hip-hop] mostly by Yo! MTV Raps on MTV. It wasn’t a big part of our culture [in Laredo] to have hip-hop music on the corner or anything. I knew that [Public Enemy] was pissed off and I wanted to be pissed off too.”
Quesada says that despite coming to hip-hop late, he quickly learned how important it was after listening to Public Enemy.
“I feel like it was educational. I did learn. I didn’t know who Malcolm X was. I didn’t know who Louis Farrakhan was. I didn’t know any of these figures that [Public Enemy] was talking about,” Quesada says. “I did learn from them. I honestly feel like I have learned more about Martin Luther King from Public Enemy than I did my school.”
Martinez says that the group didn’t think about the political nature of the title “Fear of a Brown Planet” when they were first approached by Fat Beats.
“It’s obviously a play on “Fear of a Black Planet,” so it was kind of funnier at that point than anything else,” Martinez says. “But it has taken on a different connotation and I think if people want to draw those conclusions from it, I do think [the title] is poignant and perhaps there is that fear of a brown planet out there right now. I think we might stand behind what those connotations might be or what connotations might ensue by just reading the title, because we do live in some trying times politically right now.”
Written by Haley Butler.