As an opening salvo in what frontman Chuck D promises repeatedly on his audio commentary will be a series, the DVD release It Takes A Nation captures Public Enemy's historic first performance in the UK. And though the hip-hop group's white-sweats-intensive fashion sense hasn't withstood the test of time, its music has. The DVD proves a priceless time capsule of 1987 P.E. style, indelibly chronicling a group whose elaborately choreographed stage show represented a bona fide cultural happening. All the parts of P.E.'s mythology are here, from the Old Testament authority of D's voice to Flavor Flav's manic clowning to Professor Griff sternly doing whatever the hell it is he does.
But some of the kinks still needed to be worked out. Flav's oversized clock has rightfully become a beloved bit of hip-hop's iconography, for example, but having Flav and Chuck D both wear clocksas they do hereborders on goofy overkill. And though the Bomb Squad's revolutionary sound-collages are justly revered, what makes Public Enemy work live is the unlikely chemistry between Flav's comic relief and D's earnest gravity. Much has been said about Flav's embarrassing second career as a reality-TV staple, but this wonderful little piece of music history serves as a reminder that Flavor Flav is above all else a showman, a hype-man without peer.