Posted by Billyjam, April 14, 2009 08:47pm | Post a Comment
public enemy it takes a nation of millions to hold us back
On this date, April 14th, in 1988, Public Enemy (PE) released It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back on Def Jam Recordings and 21 years later it still packs the same punch as when it was first released. Widely considered the Long Island (aka Strong Island), New York group's greatest work ever, It Takes A Nation... was not only one of PE's finest moments, but hip-hop's as well. Released during the much lamented "golden" era of hip-hop, the album, which was the follow up to PE's 1987 debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show, defied the stereotypical "sophomore slump" that so many artists suffered from.

Their debut was a damn good hip-hop album but this album was jaw-droppingly amazing in every way. Production-wise, it was so richly layered and hardcore that it just grabbed you and didn't let go. And as for Chuck D's militant and thought-provoking, in-your-face revolutionary lyrical flow? Wow! It was so powerful it scared some people. But mostly it won over new fans who stil thought of rap as some fad or disposable urban pop. Combined, all the elements of Nation made up an album that was unlike anything heard in hip-hop, or any music, up to that point. I remember that summer of '88 in the Bay Area hearing it blasting everywhere I went in every type of neighborhood. I had never experienced that before!

And although It Takes A Nation... never topped the Billboard 200 (it reached #42 and it did top the less prestigious Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Album charts), its influence was greater and more far-reaching than countless better selling albums that did reach number one. Ever since, it consistantly shows up in All Time Best Album lists by artists, fans, & critics. And musically it was incredibly influential, especially at the time.  In fact, if you go back and listen to virtually every hip-hop recording from the following year or two, 1989 or 1990, you will distinctly hear Nation/PE's direct influence.

"Night of the Living Baseheads" PETV 1988

The album's perfect production was courtesy of The Bomb Squad's Carl Ryder, Hank Shocklee, and Eric "Vietnam" Sadler (assistant producer), with production supervision by Bill Stephney & executive public enemyproduction by Rick Rubin. The result? An album whose sound was equal parts hip-hop and metal, densely layered with funk, jazz and a million other noises, including DJ scratching & sounds all beautifully packed into the mix. It was at once totally unique, yet universally appealing. There is a famous quote by the Bomb Squad's Hank Shocklee that perfectly sums the sound captured on this album: "Some people said rap is all noise. So, I gave them noise!" Beautiful noise that never ages.

The other day I took out this album and played it from start to finish and, man, it truly stands the test of time. It's a classic. It grabbed me just like the very first time I heard it. Many others have had the same experience. In fact,  Nation is so powerful and influential an album that fans demanded that PE perform it in full, which they did last year in concert in Ireland (read Amoeblog review), Australia, and in the UK as part of the 'Don't Look Back' series of concerts whereby artists perform a classic album from their catalog in full and exactly sequenced.

And this summer at the 2nd Annual Roots Picnic, which happens on Saturday, June 6th at The Festival Pier, Penn's Landing, PE will again perform It Takes A Nation... in order, from start to finish. Click here for more info on this festival. Meantime, if you don't already own this album, pick it up at Amoeba Music. It's a classic, and one you need in your collection!

1) "Countdown to Armageddon" – 1:40
2) "Bring the Noise" – 3:46 
3) "Don't Believe the Hype"  – 5:19
4) "Cold Lampin' With Flavor" – 4:17
5) "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic" – 4:31
6) "Mind Terrorist" – 1:21
7) "Louder Than a Bomb" – 3:37
8) "Caught, Can We Get a Witness" – 4:53
9) "Show 'Em Whatcha Got" – 1:56
10) "She Watch Channel Zero?!"  – 3:49
11) "Night of the Living Baseheads" – 3:14
12) "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" – 6:23
13) "Security of the First World" – 1:20
14) "Rebel Without a Pause" – 5:02
15) "Prophets of Rage" – 3:18
16) "Party for Your Right to Fight" – 3:24

"Don't Believe the Hype"

"Bring the Noise" (live at House of Blues in LA in recent years - 2007)

  "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"

"Louder Than A Bomb"

"Rebel WIthout A Pause" (live)
Yes, the rhythm the rebel
Without a pause I'm lowering my level
The hard rhymer where you never been I'm in
You want stylin' you know it's time again
D the enemy tellin you to hear it
They praised the music this time they play the lyrics
Some say no to the album the show
Bum rush the sound I made a year ago
I guess you know you guess I'm just a radical
Not a sabbatical - yes to make it critical
The only part your body should be parting to
Panther power on the hour from the rebel to you

Radio - suckers never play me
On the mix - just O.K. me
Now known and grown when they're clocking my zone it's known
Snakin' and takin' everything that a brother owns
Hard - my calling card
Recorded and orderd - supporter of Chesimard
Loud and proud kickin' live next poet supreme
Loop a troop, bazooka, the scheme
Flavor - a rebel in his own mind
Supporter of my rhyme
Designed to scatter a line of suckers who claim I do crime

Terminator X

From a rebel it's final on black vinyl
Soul, rock and roll comin' like a rhino
Tables turn - suckers burn to learn
They can't dis-able the power of my label
Def Jam - tells you who I am
The enemy's public - they really give a damn
Strong Island - where I got 'em wild and
That's the reason they're claimin' that I'm violent
Never silent - no dope gettin' dumb nope
Claimin' where we get our rhythm from
Number one - we hit ya and we give ya some
No gun - and still never on the run
You wanna be an S.1 - Griff will tell you when
And then you'll come - you'll know what time it is
Impeach the president - pullin' out the ray-gun
Zap the next one - I could be you're Sho-gun
Suckers - don't last a minute
Soft and smooth - I ain't with it
Hardcore - rawbone like a razor
I'm like a lazer - I just won't graze ya
Old enough to raise ya - so this will faze ya
Get it right boy and maybe I will praise ya
Playin' the role I got soul too
Voice my opinion with volume
Smooth - no what I am
Rough - cause I'm the man

No matter what the name - we're all the same
Pieces in one big chess game
Yeah - the voice of power
Is in the house - go take a shower boy
P.E. a group, a crew - not singular
We were black Wranglers
We're rap stranglers
You can't angle us - I know you're listenin'
I caught you pissin' in you're pants
You're scared of us dissin' us
The crowd is missin' us
We're on a mission boy

Terminator X

Attitude - when I'm on fire
Juice on the loose - electric wire
Simple and plain - give me the lane
I'll throw it down your throat like Barkley
See the car keys - you'll never get these
They belong to the 98 posse
You want some more son - you wanna get some
Rush the door on a store - pick up the album
You know the rhythm, the rhyme plus the beat is designed
So I can enter your mind - Boys
Bring the noise - my time
Step aside for the flex -
Terminator X

Relevant Tags

Bomb Squad (2), Flavor Flav (5), Public Enemy (30), It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (2), Chuck D (23)