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.