Public Enemy's original version was commissioned in 1989 by director Spike Lee for his feature film Do the Right Thing, in which it serves as a recurring musical motif. It was released as a single on Motown Records, becoming a number one hit on the rap charts, and a new recording was featured on Public Enemy's 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet.
BNL's cover Edit
Barenaked Ladies began covering the song in their live set sometime in 1990 or 1991. During the recording sessions for what would become The Yellow Tape, the band decided to record a short version of their cover to fill up a minute and a half of blank space on the recording tape reel. The lyrics for this version consist only of the first verse, the first half of the third verse, and three choruses.
Upon entering Le Studio in 1992 to record Gordon with Michael Phillip Wojewoda, a full version of "Fight the Power" was apparently the first song to be recorded but was left off the final record. This recording was later included on the soundtrack for the film Coneheads released in 1993, and was released as a promo single.