Public Enemy’s rap classic Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos was turned into a raging guitar monster by trip-hop genius Tricky, with the help of Martina Topley Bird..
As a founding member of Massive Attack Tricky was a key player in the development of the Bristol sound that would grow into trip-hop. But on his debut solo album, the genuine classic that is Maxinquaye, the stand out track was Black Steel which has more in common with Mettalica than Massive Attack.
Originally by Public Enemy, from their ground-breaking album It Take A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, the song imagines Chuck D being drafted to fight in Vietnam, and then imprisoned when he refuses to go. Tricky’s version only uses the 1st couple of verses from the original (perhaps that’s why they shortened the title to Black Steel).
But Tricky’s version of Black Steel packs, if anything, more punch than Public Enemy’s. Martina Topley Bird (now a solo artist) sings the lyrics, and does so brilliantly. The stripped down rap sound of the original (which includes samples of Isaac Hayes & Stevie Wonder) is replaced by pounding drums & guitars. Black Steel by Tricky well & truly rocks.
My friends at Shuffle are putting on a night this Saturday commerorating Britpop. Although it doesn’t fall within the strict definition of Britpop Black Steel by Tricky is definitely one of the best pieces of British music from the 90s.
You can see Public Enemy’s original version of Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos below or listen to Tricky’s blistering cover version.