Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" Remains A True Classic 30 Years After Its June 28th 1988 Def Jam Release

Posted by Billyjam, June 28, 2018 04:03pm | Post a Comment
"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 disable the power of my label, Def Jam tells you who I am: The Enemy's Public - They really give a damn"  - Chuck D ("Rebel WIthout A Pause")
On June 28th, 1988  Public Enemy released their iconic second album It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (reissued many times since including on new pressing LP/vinyl, CD Deluxe version, and 2 cassette set). Now exactly thirty years later listening back to this pitch perfect production and lyrical masterpiece, it's instantly clear that not only was Nation the pioneering political hip-hop group's best album of their three-plus decade career but one of the powerfully engaging albums of hip-hop and any other genre; a true modern American music classic.

Released by Def Jam Records at the beginnings of the so-called "golden era" of hip-hop, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back was Public Enemy's unstoppable breakout hit and that summer of 1988 you heard the album's instantly recognizable sound blasting from car stereos everywhere from NY to LA. However it was not the Long Island, NY group's first album but their sophomore release and follow up to the Chuck D fronted group's debut LP Yo! Bum Rush the Show from a year earlier. And while that 1987 Public Enemy debut was an excellent hip-hop album and well received by critics and hip-hop fans, Nation blew it away, as well as every other hip-hop record of the time and took them into the mainstream and winning over rock fans.

Every album track was incredible including "Don't Believe The Hype," "Bring The Noise," "Louder Than A Bomb," "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," "Rebel WIthout A Pause"  and ""Night of the Living Baseheads"  (scroll down to see accompanying videos for each of these songs). From a production perspective, Nation was so richly layered and sonically commanding that it just pulled listeners in and kept their attention all the way through the 58 minute album. Meanwhile lyrically Chuck D's militant and thought-provoking, in-your-face revolutionary flow was so intense that it was hypnotic. Further it managed to convert diehard rock fans who still dismissed rap as some passing fad of disposable urban pop. Up until that point there had been nothing like it in hip-hop. And Nation's influence was undeniably widespread, not just in the USA but all over the world where hip-hop was only beginning to take root. Go back and listen to records released in the following year of 1989 especially, including many overseas artists starting out, and Nation's and Public Enemy's influence is quite evident.

While a crossover record commercially  Nation was not as big a hit as one might imagine such an important and influential record to be. It never topped the Billboard 200 but only reached #42 on the chart made up of all genres of music. It did top the less prestigious Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Album charts back in '88, but over the decades since it's continued to sell while its influence and its legendary status has remained consistent as new audiences discover the album.

As much as the rapping the album's production was its driving force. This was courtesy of The Bomb Squad's Carl Ryder (aka Chuck D), Hank Shocklee, and Eric "Vietnam" Sadler (assistant producer), with production supervision by Bill Stephney and executive production by Rick Rubin. Their combined input resulted in an album whose sound was equal parts hip-hop and  heavy metal. It was a deep denspublic enemyely layered production with elements of rock, funk, jazz and a million other appropriated noises, including DJ scratching & sounds all beautifully packed into the mix. It was at once totally unique, yet universally appealing.

There is a quote by the Bomb Squad's Hank Shocklee on the album that perfectly sums the unique sound captured: "Some people said rap is all noise. So, I gave them noise!" Indeed, beautiful noise that never ages as proven by the fact that this album can be played from start to finish with ever the temptation to skip a track. Such a classic is Nation that fans demanded Public Enemy perform it in full, which they did several years in concert in the UK Australia and in Ireland (read Amoeblog review) as part of the 'Don't Look Back' series of concerts whereby artists perform a classic album in its original sequence.

It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back  (also avail on LP/vinyl)has been reissued in different formats including a 2 cassette set) version a couple of years ago and a CD Deluxe version, from 2014 that's got a second CD with an additional 40 minutes of music that includes instrumental and a capella versions plus remixes of songs off the landmark album. Happy 30th birthday It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back 

Public Enemy "Night of the Living Baseheads" from It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back

Public Enemy "Don't Believe the Hype" from It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back

Public Enemy "Bring the Noise" from It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back

 Public Enemy "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" from It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back

Public Enemy "Louder Than A Bomb" from It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back

Public Enemy "Rebel WIthout A Pause" from It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back
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

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Chuck D (25), It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back 30 Year Anniversar (1), Public Enemy (44), 1988 Hip-hop (3), It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (2)