"We had to fight for the respect of our art form" ... Chuck D. Photo: Tom Williams
This year marks a quarter of a century since a ferocious album titled Yo! Bum Rush the Show introduced a hip-hop crew unlike any other to the world.
Public Enemy not only had the requisite obscenely funky samples and seismic beats (courtesy of turntable genius Terminator X, replaced in 1999 by DJ Lord), they were fronted by three fascinating characters: a serious, intelligent lead MC (Chuck D), an outspoken, often offensive ''Minister of Information'' (Professor Griff) and a court jester (Flavor Flav).
An unlikely group of friends? Chuck D - real name Carlton Ridenhour - disagrees. ''We all came from the same environment,'' the 51-year-old says.
''I mean, in the black neighbourhood in the United States, especially at that time, you'd have somebody who would be a lawyer and somebody who was a convicted felon living in the same house … That's Public Enemy - it's always been a diverse number of a lot of different characters.''
Griff ''can't probably get down to Australia - again - because of passport issues'', Ridenhour says, but the rest of the crew will be touring imminently, with the bonus of a bassist and a drummer to back up DJ Lord.
''It's almost like we have a studio in concert. So when I'm doin' Don't Believe the Hype or one of our classic records, we can just all of a sudden swap the bass out for something else. It's almost like you're doing remixes in front of the audience, on the spot.''
Even on stage the creative fire still blazes, just as it does when it comes to the way they release their music.
This year the group plans to put out two albums mere months apart because, Ridenhour says, ''Today's audience will flash through your work in such a small time … The digital realm gives me the ability to slow the listener down for a minute.''
Yes, this group has evolved during the past 25 years. And though they have never been accepted by the mainstream, they're an important part of the cultural fabric.
''We're not really accepted, we're respected,'' Ridenhour says. ''We had to fight for the respect of our art form.''
May 11, 8pm, Metro Theatre, city, metrotheatre.com.au, 9550 3666, $77.50.