PUBLIC ENEMY — It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (review)

PUBLIC ENEMY — It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back album cover Album · 1988 · Jazz Related DJs/Electronica/Rap Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Very few albums have hit with the nuclear thunderclap impact of Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”. Although their first album had hinted at greatness, nothing could have prepared the world of popular music for the intense power of “It Takes a Nation …”. What Coltrane did to jazz and Hendrix did to rock, Public Enemy did to rap and hip-hop. Not only was the rap game affected by this release, but also the worlds of electronica, RnB, heavy rock and industrial music too. Bands and artists from many genres began to realize how much they could bring to their music with some creative sampling and production. Possibly even more important though, lead rapper Chuck D brought consciousness of what it meant to be a black man in the US to many people who probably would not have picked up this knowledge any other way. It wasn’t only the city youth who knew every word of these songs by heart, but many suburban kids were digging this too. Both musically and lyrically, this was one of the most influential albums of its time in any genre.

There are many who will probably never forget the first time they heard “Bring the Noise” blasting out of a pair of speakers. This album is no longer the shock it once was because so many have imitated it, but when it first came out, nothing sounded like this. Along with Chuck’s booming voice, fellow rapper Flava Flav’s humorous asides, and Terminator X’s funky sampled beats and sax riffs, you got this barrage of pure chaotic noise that worked perfectly with the music. The crescendoing cauldron of sounds that threaten to drown out Chuck only made his voice and words more powerful and urgent.

There is no dead air on here, every cut is dynamite. Some highlights include, "Night of the Living Baseheads", which has Chuck raging against crack addiction, “Cold Lampin with Flavor”, on which Flav spouts free wheelin nonsense over a funky beat, and the heavy rock drive of “She Watch Channel Zero”, which inspired both Slayer and Anthrax to perform this track with Chuck. After being in the forefront during the late 60s, politically driven African-American consciousness had taken a back seat during the me first materialistic 80s. With this album, Chuck D and his crew changed all that and brought their message of no sell out to cars, homes, parties and clubs all around the world.
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