Public Enemy “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” (1988)

     The next two days are a hip-hop powerhouse double-header, and I couldn’t be more excited.  Of all the hip-hop artists I have enjoyed over the years, none has had a bigger impact or influence on me than Public Enemy.  While many of their peers were focused on the more trivial matters of life, Chuck D and Public Enemy were trying to change the world.  Their second album, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” is an absolute masterpiece, and listening to this album multiple times today was a real highlight.  Rated as the #15 album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums, this classic is also rated as the #5 hip-hop record of all time on

     The lineup for Public Enemy is just as solid as this record.  In addition to the intellectual and defiant activism of Chuck D, we have the cartoonish clowning of Flavor Flav (Yeeeaahhhh, boy!), as well as the controversial Professor Griff, who left the group after this album for some of his controversial stances politically.  On DJ, we have the one and only Terminator X, and the duo on production, known as the Bomb Squad, drop a heavy groove on track after track.

     The album opens with a live-concert announcement of the “Countdown to Armageddon”, and there is no question this record is on point from the very beginning.  “Bring the Noise” and “Don’t Believe the Hype” comes next, and if you like Public Enemy like I do, just settle in for what is nearly an hour of one great tune after another.  Flavor Flav takes the lead on “Cold Lampin’ with Flavor”, and the samples and beats just keep coming.  A sample of “Flash’s Theme” by Queen brings us back to “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic”, and while I could rave about every song on this album, I will point out some others that are just unbelievably good.  “Louder Than a Bomb” may be the thickest groove on the album, and the guitar riffs on “She Watch Channel Zero?!” are filthy.

     I have always loved that Chuck D took the angle of elevation and superiority in every manner as a way of confronting the systemic racism that is front and center on this record, and everything that Public Enemy stands for.  That said, he always holds his own community accountable for their own actions, and on “Night of the Living Baseheads” and “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”, he takes on drug use and incarceration as the cancers they can be for any society.  Powerful music with a message that hits like a hammer?  Sign me up.  The last song on the album, “Party for Your Right to Fight” is a word play on the Beastie Boys hit, while maintaining the message of fighting for change and equality all the way to the last note.

     “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” is angry, intense, heavy, groovy and a phenomenal product in every way possible.  Thankfully for all of us who are Public Enemy fans, they come back strong after this iconic release, but for most, this bombastic showcase will always serve as their definitive moment in the world of hip-hop.

Published by tacopepper

A music fan...

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