Writing in Rolling Stone, Will Dukes takes a moment during Black History Month to examine how Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet (1990) "hipped a whole generation to the extraordinary richness of the African-American experience." From Rolling Stone:
Back in the inner city, barbershop discussions about disrupting the powers that be began to flourish. It was a given that, as you waited for that fresh new fade, you were going to get — along with the usual banter about Michael Jordan, the medicinal properties of rum, or whether Laura Winslow was all that on the latest season of Family Matters — an earful of opinions on the heady ideas found in such Black nationalist tomes as Frances Cress Welsing's The Isis Papers or Elijah Muhammad's Message to the Blackman in America. So much of this was due to the militant precedent that Fear of a Black Planet set[…]
What was in the air at the beginning of the decade to make the climate receptive to socially conscious music? Start with the incredibly high bar Public Enemy had set two years earlier with It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. (Earlier in 1988, Boogie Down Productions released their own mindful masterwork, By All Means Necessary.) The brewing fervor over what crack cocaine did to the Black community; the rage in the streets over the extrajudicial killings of Eleanor Bumpurs and Yusef Hawkins; and the gross miscarriage of justice that led to the wrongful conviction of the Central Park Five all meant that enough was enough. Young Black listeners in 1990 wanted their art to empower them. And, 26 years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act, they yearned for songs that spoke to the injustices they continued to experience.