25 Albums That Shaped My Life
Fear of a Black Planet
Def Jam, 1990
I was introduced to Public Enemy and Fear of a Black Planet by my friend and neighbor Tommy, who lived across the street from me for a couple years. His family moved to Plymouth, Minnesota from Cincinnati. We hit it off immediately and were damn near inseparable until his family moved to Florida.
Tommy was unlike any of the other friends I had in my lily-white suburb. He idolized Bo Jackson and Ickey Woods and on occasion would proclaim, "I want to be black!" Before he got Fear of a Black Planet, my exposure to rap music was limited to the humorous (Beastie Boys) and poppy (MC Hammer) mainstream acts. Fear of a Black Planet was an eye-opener. At 12-13 years old, I was well on my way toward seeking rock music of substance, so I guess it makes sense that Chuck D's words had such a profound impact on me.
Tommy is now Tom. After losing track of him for about 15 years, he tracked me down on Myspace a couple of years ago. He is a stand-up comic in Los Angeles. He's bigger and hairier than I remember him, and I can only assume he wears sweatpants in public less frequently, but he's always been the funniest dude in the room. Thanks for the PE, Tom.