We can argue all day the skills and relevance of today’s rap emcees versus those from the genre’s early years. What’s not up for debate is how the latter paved the way for and influenced the former.
Without De La Soul, we’d have no backpacker movement. Gangsta rap leads back to Ice Cube (and the seminal group he helped found, NWA). Women were pinning posters and magazine cutouts of LL Cool J the same way their daughters now fill their Tumblr accounts with Drake and Usher jpegs.
And then there’s pioneering hip-hop group Public Enemy, which inspired acts as diverse as Rage Against the Machine, The Coup, Wu Tang Clan, Jay-Z and The Prodigy, all adapting the sociopolitical commentary and/or aggressive urban soundscapes for which the New York crew is best known.
As such, Public Enemy’s inclusion on the Kings of the Mic tour is necessary, given how it eventually permeated and directed popular music, to say nothing of its incendiary live show. The Las Vegas date is particularly resonant for the group, as Flavor Flav — the jester-like foil to emceeing partner Chuck D, hip-hop’s resident drill sergeant — lives right here in the valley. His eastside fried-chicken joint may have faltered, but his performance on Friday won’t. And when he and Chuck launch into “Fight the Power” — still rap’s greatest song — they will remind the audience exactly why they’ve been branded as kings. 8:30 p.m.; The Joint, 4433 Paradise Road, www.hardrockhotel, $55.50.