Speaking truth to power has been standard operating procedure for Public Enemy since the group released its 1987 debut single, featuring classic cuts “You’re Gonna Get Yours,” “Rebel Without A Pause,” and “Miuzi Weighs A Ton.” Coming out of the gate strong amid the Reagan era, spouting Black outrage and ultra-political lyrical brilliance: “From a rebel it’s final on black vinyl / Soul, rock ‘n’ roll comin’ like a rhino,” Public Enemy made civil disobedience their calling card—their vocation.

Now, some 33 years later, the United States’ presidential administration goose-steps deeper into an Orwellian nightmare every day. The seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic has killed nearly double the number of Americans who died as a result of the VietNam War. The streets in every major city are alive with fiery protests over police brutality. “The Terrordome” has come to your home.

The group’s co-founding vocalists, frontman Chuck D and hype man Flavor Flav, backed by powerhouse DJ Lord have risen again from the smoke and ash of so much turmoil with “State of the Union (STFU),” a new song and video that jump-starts Public Enemy’s timeless charge. When Chuck D raps, “History’s a mystery if y’all ain’t learning / End this clown show for real a state bozo / Nazi cult 45 Gestapo,” his intentions are made blisteringly clear. Now is the time to fight harder than ever against the forces of racism, tyranny, and oppression. “The rest of the planet is on our side,” Chuck says. “But it’s not enough to talk about change. You have to show up and demand change. Folks gotta vote like their lives depend on it, ’cause [they do].”

Invoking the power of the voting booth is an unexpected move in an era where the electoral system appears to have been hijacked; everyone from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp have thrown wrenches into the gears at the poll booth. But the system is good and worth fighting for. It’s how laws are passed, and without it the Republic is lost. “Better rock that vote or vote for hell,” Chuck D raps as the song plays out.

Chuck and Flavor’s matter-of-fact delivery is particularly haunting in “State of the Union.” There is no joy when Flavor Flav delivers his repeating mantra: “State of the union, shut the fuck up / Sorry Ass mother fucker, stay away from me.” Chuck’s counter rhyme, “Vote this joke out or die trying,” is a no BS assessment from the weary but empowered outfit. The energy is propelled forward by DJ Lord’s spectral boom-bap rhythms and DJ Premiere’s bold, old school production. The cumulative experience and wisdom of Public Enemy’s decades-long legacy of navigating media pitfalls and broadcasting righteous sedition rings loud and clear under the hue of DJ Premiere’s modern sheen.

“State of the Union (STFU)” bears the marks of a more experienced outfit following P.E.’s 1980s peak when the group led the charge to “Fight the Power” in the streets of Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood, alongside hundreds—thousands of outraged New Yorkers. The instinct is there, sharper and more focused. Public Enemy has persevered in darkness amid eras of great change in the past. But when it comes to unfucking the world in this lifetime, the greatest obstacles lie ahead. STFU! Press play and let it ride.

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