A common misconception about this song is that it’s about the police. Instead, the song is about the slow response time of paramedics responding to emergency calls in black neighborhoods. The video makes this clear, featuring paramedics arriving late after someone has a heart attack and a seizure.
911 is a Joke was the 3rd single to be released off of Fear of a Black Planet. It was also Public Enemy’s second song to reach number one on the rap charts, following Fight The Power. Despite the song’s popularity, it was not regularly played on the radio and MTV rarely aired the song’s video. In 1990, criticizing 911 was still too controversial for the mainstream to touch.
While watching this video, keep an eye out for Samuel L. Jackson playing a worried father.