“A cell is hell – I’m a rebel so I rebel, between bars, got me thinkin’ like an animal” raps Chuck D on “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”. This song is taken from Public Enemy’s 1988 release, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back; considered one of the most influential hip-hop albums. Arguably a classic. You’re wondering, “What does this have to do with this soul group you’re making a documentary about?”
You’re right to be skeptical. Angry and militant, hip-hop group and a Soul group that effortlessly sings sweet soul ballads…what?! We’re introduced to “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” with a recording of Flavor Flav shouting out the London crowd at their show. As we progress to the intro of the track, we hear the sound of jail bars slamming shut, the sound of an a cappella doo-wop group singing, “oh please, oh please, oh please…just give us just one more chance now…”, and then the warm, signal of an AM radio news report:
“A felon from behind bars or you could say real rock from the rock. An unusual musical happening in a MOST unusual place. The state prison…”
The clip of the newsman is taken from The Escorts’ album, All We Need is Another Chance, from the track, “Little Green Apples”.
What is mind-blowing is that the video for “Black Steel...” was shot in Newark Street Prison. This is significant for two reasons. One; the founder of The Escorts, Reginald Prophet Haynes served time at Newark St, before being transferred to the prison where he started The Escorts. And two; Newark St. prison, or rather what remains of it, is what is featured in our teaser located on our Kickstarter page.
The images from PE’s music video and from our teaser are quite powerful. The music of Public Enemy, and The Legendary Escorts that they sample, is even more powerful than a nation of millions.
- Christopher Black | @TheBlack | Producer