Welcome to the Terrordome

Album: Fear of a Black Planet (1990)
Charted: 18

Songfacts®:

  • Public Enemy came under fire from the Jewish community after equating the black experience with the holocaust. When Professor Griff, who was the group's "Minister of Information," told the Washington Times that "Jews are wicked. And we can prove this," it incited a great deal of controversy and led to Griff leaving Public Enemy.

    "Terrordome" takes on this controversy. Group leader Chuck D explained to Keyboard magazine in 1990: "My job is to write shocking lyrics that will wake people up. Take 'Welcome to the Terrordome.' How could I talk about 1989 and not talk about the band's confrontation with the Jewish community? It would've been false! But no matter what, if I mention the word 'Jew' on a record, if I'm not explicitly praising the Jewish community, that record will be deemed anti-Semitic because people would just hear that word in a rap song by a group that allegedly said something about the Jewish community and interpret it accordingly. But I had to tell people what happened and how it happened, and a line like 'Tell the rab to get off the rag' is about what happened. I told Rabbi Cooper, 'Listen, I'll take care of the situation, don't worry about it, calm down,' and his attitude was, like, 'Everything's cool, I just want to know what's going on. These things can't happen, and if this is your group member, it doesn't make things look good for the rest of the group.'"
  • Chuck D told NME that the song's title was inspired by an article he read in Melody Maker with the title "Welcome to the Terrordome" (a pun on Frankie Goes to Hollywood's album Welcome to the Pleasuredome).
  • Aside from addressing the political controversy that surrounded Public Enemy concerning the Jewish community in "Welcome To The Terrordome," Chuck D also spoke on the death of Yusef Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins was a 16-year-old African American male who was murdered in the summer of 1989 in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst when he was ambushed and killed by a group of young white men. This event added fuel to the fire that was already burning throughout racial relationships.

    Chuck's frustration can be heard in the following lines:

    First, nothings worse than a Mother's pain
    of a son slain in Bensonhurst
    Can't wait for the state to decide the fate
    So this jam I dedicate
    Places with the racist faces
    Example of one of many places


    He also gives his take on thought versus action:

    Whatcha do is get your head ready
    instead of getting physically sweaty
    when I get mad I put it down on a pad
    give you something that you never had


    Chuck D was known for offering fearless lyrical insight on controversial subjects, putting him at the top of the most influential emcees list in the genre of hip-hop.
  • The layers of samples on this track combine to make up a Frankenstein's Monster of sound that was only possible because they didn't clear those samples - common practice at the time.

    A ruling on sampling didn't come down until 1991, when Gilbert O'Sullivan won a case against Biz Markie for sampling Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" on Markie's "Alone Again." This ruling had a major impact on the overall sound of hip-hop and tore down the "Sonic Wall" the Bomb Squad producers used to bring the noise for Public Enemy. It became so expensive to use the various samples that producers began to use interpolations instead, opting to hire studio musicians to replay the bits they wanted to use so they would only have to pay the songwriter as opposed to the record label.

    For Public Enemy, who chopped bits and pieces of music to create their own original compositions, the sound they had invented through a collage of samples to define their music had to be completely changed.

    Samples from "Terrordome" include:
    "Psychedelic Shack" by The Temptations
    "Train Sequence" by Geoffrey Sumner
    "Bon Bon Vie (Gimmie the good life)" by T.S. Monk
    "Cold Sweat" by James Brown
    "Cloud Nine" (live version) by THE Temptations

Comments: 1

  • Andy from Taunton, MaThis song is genius. One of their best
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