For such a visceral band, Public Enemy have made videos that are as exciting as a TV cooking show. Most of them amount to little more than head rapper Chuck D emoting in front of sets that look like Hollywood backlots, and the videos’ stilted nature zaps the energy from the band’s hypnotically aggressive music. So, much like their first video collection, 1989’s Fight the Power Live, the band has made its second compilation, Tour of a Black Planet, more than just a series of music videos. There are such clips (mostly from last year’s Fear of a Black Planet, including ”911 Is a Joke” and ”Burn Hollywood Burn,” costarring Ice Cube, plus their latest, ”Can’t Truss It,” a heavy-handed Roots tribute), but wedged in between are concert footage, offstage joking, fragments of TV interviews, and anything else the group could cram into an hour.
As Tour shows, however, their politics and image have become much more jumbled since the sloppy but forceful Fight the Power Live. While Chuck D remains an eloquent speaker, his ideas are almost negated by Flavor Flav’s deranged-marionette antics and the humorless harangues of entourage member Sister Souljah. The confusion isn’t helped by the editing. Tour is one long series of dizzying jump cuts, which not only becomes tiresome but also reduces serious issues to sound bites. Public Enemy remain rap’s most riveting stage act, and the live footage captures their manic energy. But Tour is primarily a souvenir for the converted, and PE’s goals have always seemed much loftier than that. B-