“Public Enemy: Welcome To The Terrordome” chronicles the influential & iconic hip hop group’s extraordinary career

By on January 5, 2017

The 2009 documentary Public Enemy: Welcome To The Terrordome — now streaming on Night Flight Plus — chronicles the influential and iconic hip hop group’s extraordinary career, and features home movies and candid footage, occasionally catching them off-guard, in addition to lots of live concert footage shot at recent concerts all around the world, showing audiences that today, after more than twenty years after they formed, PE are still fightin’ the power in their own unique, relevant way.

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Public Enemy: Welcome To The Terrordome — which carries a subtitle: “20 Years of Rap, Rock and Revolution” — delves deep into PE”s legacy and history, which includes multi-million album sales, and over sixty tours, performing over 1500 concerts to fans in 58 countries around the world; we see footage from more recent shows in Moscow, Russia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Beijing, China, Taiwan, Spain, London, England, and at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

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We see how Public Enemy formed first as a mobile DJ unit and college radio show from Long Island, New York, before releasing their increasingly lyrically and musically complex full-length albums in the mid-80s, shaking the hip hop world to its core, particularly with their 1987 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, which critiqued racism and social injustice using the language of black revolutionaries from the 1960s, such as Malcolm X and H. Rap Brown.

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The hour-and-a-half film is directed by Robert Patton-Spruill, who began collecting concert footage and interviews with groups and artists like the Beastie Boys, Henry Rollins and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, who told the director about the group’s impact on them.

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Robert Patton-Spruill

The project developed organically through his friendship with leader and group spokesman Chuck D and the rest of the group, about whom he once said: “They’re a punk band when it really comes down to it; that’s where their heart and soul really is.”

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The filmmaker spent time with each individual member of the group — which in addition to Chuck D, includes Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and several others — listening to them talk about one another.

Patton-Spruill began working in the major motion picture world ten years previous to the organic start of the film, directing the 1997 feature Squeeze and then following it a year later with 1998’s Body Count, starring Forest Whitaker, Ving Rhames, John Leguizamo and David Caruso.

He met Chuck D that same year at a meeting at Miramax, and the two began to collaborate on music videos and footage for the band’s tour DVD a few years later.

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Patton-Spruill — who also runs the New England Film & Video Festival and is a visiting artist in residence at Emerson College in Boston — is also the founder of Filmshack Productions, for whom he’s written and directed a number of short films, including the award-winning indie film Turntable.

In addition to the Beastie Boys, Tom Morello, and Henry Rollins, there are also interview segments with: DMC, Talib Kweli, Jonathan Davis, Spike Lee, Ice Cube, KRS One, Scott lan of Anthrax, Ice-T, and Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas.

Watch Public Enemy: Welcome To The Terrordome and other music docs now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.