“Soul power!” declares Chuck D on the title track of How to Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul, over a sample and chorus which both recall “Fight the Power.” It's the first of many shout-outs to Public Enemy's earlier works; just about every song they've ever done is name-dropped here, along with the career highlights of fellow politicopop pioneer Bob Dylan. Fortunately, none of this is a bad thing. In fact, surrounding these nostalgic rhymes are some of the group's most explosive tracks to date, courtesy of recharged Bomb Squad producer Gary G-Wiz.
First single “Harder Than You Think” is a brass-heavy adrenaline rush which, with any justice, will serve as the soundtrack to both black power rallies and spinning classes at the Y. Other highlights include KRS-One's verse on "Sex, Drugs and Violence," the Redman-produced "Can You Hear Me Now," and Flava Flav at his dadaistic best on “Col-Leepin" — the most absurd hip-hop song since the death of Ol'Dirty Bastard. “Flava Flav, back in your face once again, from New York, London, Australia, Japan, and China, this jam goes out to my kids!” he tells us. (While Flav offers welcome comic relief to Chuck D's insistent politicking, one wonders what the latter thought of Flavor of Love.) But the album's most surprising feature is its preponderance of bangers. “Amerikan Gangster,” “The Enemy Battle Hymn of the Public” and “Frankenstar” all rank as some of the most insistent, inspired work Public Enemy has ever done. It isn't always pretty, but it's never less than honest.