Public Enemy's By the Time I Get to Arizona

A few minutes late, but man, this is good stuff.

YouTube - Public Enemy - By The Time I Get To Arizona (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. I remember that they banned this video.
    dang, you just sent me back in time.
    thank you

    I think this video would still be banned if it came out today.

  2. Explain to me how invoking images of MLK and then the bombing and assassination of an elected official isn’t completely illogical, myopic, and not to mention perverse?

    Not to jump on the hyperbole wagon here, but isn’t that tantamount to showing images of Ghandi and then the Mumbai shootings?

    Making very little sense to me,

    1. Explain?


      Explain to me why anyone who celebrates slaveholders and colonialists deserves a moment’s freedom, breath, and credibility! Explain this to me!

      Explain to me why this unexplainable country celebrates so called “founding fathers” who were venal, disgusting, cowardly, filthy slaveholders of the highest order–yes, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, all vicious, racist, co-architects of African colonialism states-side.

      Explain to me why Martin Luther King, Jr. and other mainstream civil rights leaders pandered to the white liberal establishment whose cooperation he needed for legal and social reforms to move ahead in the depraved minds of willfully-ape-like-ignorant-racist Congressman, Senators, judges, justices, and state politicians by elevating Rosa Parks, a light-skinned, middle class black woman to bus-boycotting sainthood over the likes of Claudette Colvin, a dark-skinned, 15 year old, pregnant woman who, like Parks, refused to get to the back of the bus too about a year before Parks did. And it doesn’t stop there: explain why history backgrounds the other two black women who bit into the tough hide of racist transportation practices when they sued the bus system in court: Sarah Keys and Irene Morgan.

      Explain to me for the love of God, why Martin Luther King is elevated to nonviolent-theoretical-sainthood when he wasn’t even the man who adapted satyagraha (nonviolent dialectic) from Ghandi. No! It was a black gay man, the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, the accomplished musician, thinker, and writer who TRAVELED to India, learned satyagraha from the source and brought it back to the cradle of Southern black religion, teaching MLK ideals that he would be better know for: yes, I’m talking about Bayard Rustin.

      Explain to me why anyone who celebrates slaveholders and colonialists deserves a moment’s freedom, breath, and credibility!

      Explain this to me and then, only then, will I ever tell you why MLK should be invoked in the same instance as Public Enemy!

      Explain who gave you this rosey, romantic notion of MLK!?

      Explain who didn’t let you in on how COMPLEX civil rights and human rights struggles are, the way they balance violence and nonviolence to agitate for basic acts of human decency!

      And your explanation had better be fabulous, competitive, in-depth, and brutally reasoned.

      And your explanation had better attend to complexities without this insufferable hagiography of MLK that you and so many are bent on perpetuating.

      Nobody is a saint–not MLK, not Ghandi, no one, despite the foolishness of some religious rituals.

      Explain that!

      1. @dabulamanzikuti

        african american studies just isn’t on many people’s radar. it’s not some conspiracy, it’s just that concepts like white privilege and systemic oppression are fundamentally foreign to a lot of people, even liberals.

        i’ve done way more than your average middle class white male heterosexual to understand these issues and i still find that it’s really tough to have a conversation about these things with pretty much anyone, black or white.

      2. Props for the Rustin shout-out, but most things I’ve read about him mention that he was rather difficult, not the leader type that King was. Also, not a preacher, like King was. Also, he got attacked often for his homosexuality: he wasn’t hetero, like King was. I really don’t think there’s any conspiracy, although Rustin and his efforts are indeed sadly overlooked. But John the Baptist doesn’t get nearly the press that Jesus does (or Abraham, Moses, to traffic in biblical parallels), so there you have it. This might not be the “fabulous, competitive, in-depth, and brutally reasoned” answer you’re crying out for, but it has the benefit of being true.

  3. The Kleptones mash this up with The Flaming Lips in their track “Are You A Visionary” from their album Yoshimi Battles the Hip Hop Robots.Intercut with clips of MLK speaking. It is sublime. Available here:

    MasterSauce, the video’s supposed to be a sensational vengeance fantasy–a minority group acting out the atrocity committed against a civil rights leader on their oppressors. Basically PE was f—ing pissed and tired and just reacting to an absurdly racist governor who canceled MLK Day.

    Not sure I get your analogy. It’s more like intercutting video of Gandhi being assassinated with shots of a fictional assassination of an elected anti-Muslim Hindu Nationalist who canceled Ghandi Day. Note: I made up Ghandi Day.

  4. MasterSauce, I re-read your comment and maybe you just didn’t grasp the meaning behind the song. In 1987 Evan Micham, governor of Arizona, canceled MLK day. From the wiki: “…Mecham replied to comments from civil rights activists and the black community after the cancellation by saying ‘King doesn’t deserve a holiday.’ This was followed by him telling a group of black community leaders, ‘You folks don’t need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs.'”

    “By The Time I Get To Arizona” is about the protest that took place in reaction to Mecham’s action.
    So hopefully you get the relationship between showing MLK’s assassination and the staged assassination of the Governor. Perverse? Maybe, probably. Illogical? No.

    Public Enemy had to be over-the-top and scandalous in order to get attention from the white media.

    1. Actually, it’s not about Mecham. He’d already been removed from office in 1988. It was about then-governor Fife Symington III and the failure of the 1990 proposition to observe MLK Day. Neither the Arizona legislature nor voters had ever voted to approve the holiday, and the previous observance had been by executive order of former governor Bruce Babbit, an act the state attorney general’s office opposed as unconstitutional. Another proposition passed in 1992, not as a result of violent threats and fantasies, but by an old-fashioned economic boycott started by another black musician, Stevie Wonder. Who managed to get the media’s attention just fine. At least, well enough to lose Arizona the Super Bowl.

  5. Go-go-gadget romanization of aspirated consonants! So, is that ‘d’ retroflex, dental, or something else?

  6. Wow… Thats a nice long speech. But I’m still hazy.
    I just don’t see how you can justify a fantasy that’s nothing short of terrorism.
    I confess, I don’t understand everything there is know about civil/human rights struggles. I’m not trying to pick a fight, I just don’t get what you’re trying to say. Especially when it’s wrapped up in confusing rhetoric about slaveholders and colonialists which has nothing to do with me.
    I get what Public Enemy was trying to do especially in context of the time. They wanted it to start controversy and make a large statement. Great, wonderful. However, I don’t think fantasizing about killing people is really honoring the man. A quote from Dr. King: “To destroy anything, person or property, can’t bring us closer to the goal that we seek.”
    But that’s my 2 cents.
    You can once again trounce me and call me an idiot if you like.

    Truly though, apologies for the spelling errors. I will try to correct this in the future.


    1. “However, I don’t think fantasizing about killing people is really honoring the man.”

      Well that’s true.

  7. The irony is that the MLK Day ban in Arizona wasn’t overturned by violence. It was reversed because major convention organizers threatened to boycott hotels and convention centers in Arizona. Tourism strikes a blow for freedom.

  8. Wow…that was one of those moments where you think “all this time there was music that sounded like THAT and I wasn’t listening to it?”

  9. Public Enemy on this record sounds like the whole city is being blasted apart by grenades. Absolutely huge!

  10. The point as I see it is, if you reject MLK and his methods, then you’re asking for Black liberation via your own methods and here’s what that’s going to look like. Either embrace and celebrate peaceful struggle, or accept the alternative.

    Is Chuck D still recording? Besides always making a great point, he was such a powerful MC!

  11. Wow-no MLK Day? And that surprised people how? Arizona has always made it a policy to trample the civil rights rights of minorities and indigenous people. The Chicanos in that state should take note and speak up about the LAND that was stolen out from under them.

  12. dabulamanzikuti says:

    Explain to me why anyone who celebrates slaveholders and colonialists deserves a moment’s freedom, breath, and credibility!

    Explain to me who died and made you the second incarnation of Stalin? Really. You have a hard time understanding why people whose views you find abhorrent should not be in jail? Concepts such as freedom of expression are a foreign concept to you? Perhaps it is time you re-examined those ideologies that leads you to be such a wannabe oppressor.

Comments are closed.