It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back: Wikis

  
  

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It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Studio album by Public Enemy
Released April 14, 1988
Recorded 1987
Greene Street Recording, Chung King Studios
(New York, New York)
Sabella Recording
(Roslyn, New York)
Spectrum City Studios
(Hempstead, New York)
Genre Hip hop
Length 57:51
Label Def Jam/Columbia
CK 44303
Producer The Bomb Squad, Rick Rubin (exec.)
Public Enemy chronology
Yo! Bum Rush the Show
(1987)
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
(1988)
Fear of a Black Planet
(1990)

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is the second studio album by American hip hop group Public Enemy, released April 14, 1988 on Def Jam Recordings in the United States. It features a dense, sample-heavy production by The Bomb Squad and politically-charged lyrics by group member Chuck D. On the album's musical style, music journalist Peter Shapiro wrote "Droning feedback, occasional shards of rock guitar, and James Brown horn samples distorted into discordant shrieks back the political rhetoric of lead rapper Chuck D and the surreality of Flavor Flav".[1]

Upon its release, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back peaked at number 42 on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 500,000 copies in its first month. Widely regarded as the group's best work, it has been frequently cited by writers as one of the most celebrated and influential albums in hip hop. In 2003, the album was ranked number 48 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Contents

Reception

Commercial performance

In its first month of release, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back sold 500,000 copies without significant promotional efforts by its distributing label Columbia Records.[2] It peaked at number 42 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and at number 1 on the Top Black Albums chart.[3] On August 22, 1989, the album was certified platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), following sales in excess of 1 million copies in the United States.[4]

Critical response

 Professional ratings
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[5]
BBC Online (favorable)[6]
Robert Christgau (A+)[7]
New York Times (favorable)[8]
NME (10/10)[9]
Rolling Stone (favorable) 1988[10]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars 2004[11]
Slant 4.5/5 stars[12]
Sputnikmusic 5/5 stars[13]
Washington Post (mixed)[14]

Despite a divided reaction towards its controversial lyrical content, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back received generally positive reviews from music critics, and it was included on several critics' end-of-the-year album lists.[15] It was ranked number 1 on The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critic' poll of 1988,[16] as well as number 3 on Voice critic Robert Christgau's list.[17] In an article for the publication, Christgau described It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back as "the bravest and most righteous experimental pop of the decade--no matter how the music looks written down (ha ha), Hank Shocklee and Terminator X have translated Blood Ulmer's harmolodic visions into a street fact that's no less edutaining (if different) in the dwellings of monkey spawn and brothers alike (and different)".[18]

In a 1988 article, Los Angeles Times writer Robert Hilburn wrote that the album incorporates some of the dynamics of early rap records such as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message" (1982) and Run–D.M.C.'s "Sucker MC's" (1984) with the "radical, socially conscious tradition of groups like the Last Poets".[19] Hilburn commended Chuck D for his rapping on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, writing that he "isn't afraid of being labeled an extremist, and it's that fearless bite--or game plan--that helps infuse his black-consciousness raps with the anger and assault of punk pioneers like the Sex Pistols and Clash".[20] A columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News gave it a B rating and compared its musical "rage" to that of rapper Schooly D's Smoke Some Kill (1988).[21] Jon Pareles of The New York Times praised the album for its production and compared its symbolic value to hip hop music at the time, stating:

Where most rappers present themselves as funky individualists, beating the odds of the status quo, Public Enemy suggests that rap listeners can become an active community, not just an audience. Although it overreaches, It Takes a Nation jams urban tension and black anger into the foreground; it reveals the potential for demagoguery as well as the need for change. 'Whatcha gonna do/ rappers not afraid of you', Public Enemy demands, and in 1988 it sounds like something more than idle entertainment.[8]
Jon Pareles

Widely regarded as the group's finest work, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back regularly ranks as one of the greatest and most influential recordings of all time in various publications.[22][23][24] In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it number 48 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It is the highest ranking hip-hop album on the list.[25] Acclaimedmusic.net ranks the album as the 17th best album of all time and also the greatest hip-hop album.[26] Time Magazine hailed it as one of the 100 greatest albums of all time in 2006.[27] It was listed in The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums. Kurt Cobain, the lead guitarist and singer of the grunge band Nirvana listed 'It Takes A Nation of Millions' as one of his top 50 favorite albums in his journals.[28] The album is broken down track-by-track by Chuck D in Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique.[29] In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #7 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s". [30]

Don't Look Back tour

Public Enemy performed the album in its entirety to audiences in the UK during May 2008 as part of the Don't Look Back series of concerts which saw classic rap albums such as Nation of Millions and Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... performed for the first time in years. These performances were also included on the extended tour in Australia, including shows in Brisbane and Sydney.

Adaptations

The track "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" was covered by Tricky on the album Maxinquaye. It was also covered by thrash metal group Sepultura on their Revolusongs EP. During their 1996 European tour Rage Against the Machine would frequently play alternative versions of this song including one at the Pinkpop Festival where they brought Chuck D out onto the stage to perform with them. This was later included on the Live & Rare album and the People of the Sun 10" single. The West-Coast Hip-Hop group The Pharcyde also referenced the song "Black Steel in the Hour of Choas" in their song "Officer" on their album "Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde", were the paraphrase the lyrics, saying "I got a letter from the DMV the other day/I opened and read it, it said they were suckers." Chuck D recorded a new version of "Bring the Noise" in a 1991 collaboration with the thrash metal band Anthrax.

In 2008, the album was performed live in its entirety as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties-curated Don't Look Back series. First it was be debuted as a UK tour featuring special guest DJ Hank Shocklee (Bomb Squad), and then it appeared on July 18, 2008 at Pitchfork Music Festival. Chuck D has expressed reservations about the format of the Don't Look Back series. [31]

On April 1, 2008 BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe featured the album in a two-hour 'masterpiece' program. The album was played in its entirety, preceded by interviews with various prominent musicians. On June 6, 2009, at the Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, Public Enemy performed the album in its entirety along with Antibalas and The Roots – the first time this album was recreated backed by a live band.

Cultural references

Certain track titles refer to other titles from popular culture:

Track listing

All songs written by Carlton "Chuck D" Ridenhour, Eric "Vietnam" Sadler, and Hank Shocklee, except where noted.

  1. "Countdown to Armageddon" – 1:40
  2. "Bring the Noise" – 3:46
  3. "Don't Believe the Hype" (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, William "Flavor Flav" Drayton) – 5:19
  4. "Cold Lampin' with Flavor" (Sadler, Shocklee, Drayton) – 4:17
  5. "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic" (Ridenhour, Norman "Terminator X" Rogers, Drayton) – 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?!" (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, Richard "Professor Griff" Griffin, Drayton) – 3:49
  11. "Night of the Living Baseheads" – 3:14
  12. "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, Drayton) – 6:23
  13. "Security of the First World" – 1:20
  14. "Rebel Without a Pause" (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, Rogers) – 5:02
  15. "Prophets of Rage" (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, Drayton) – 3:18
  16. "Party for Your Right to Fight" – 3:24

Personnel

  • Producers – Rick Rubin (exec.), Eric "Vietnam" Sadler (assistant producer), Carl Ryder, Hank Shocklee
  • Vocals – Professor Griff, Chuck D., Fab 5 Freddy, Flavor Flav, Erica Johnson, Oris Josphe, Harry Allen
  • Engineers – John Harrison, Jeff Jones, Nick Sansano, Chuck Valle, Greg Gordon, Jim Sabella, Matt Tritto, Christopher Shaw
  • Mixing – Steven Ett, Rod Hui, Keith Boxley, Chuck Chillout
  • Scratching – Norman Rogers, Johnny Juice Rosado
  • Turntables – Terminator X, Johnny Juice Rosado
  • Photography – Glen E. Friedman
  • Programming – Hank Shocklee, Eric "Vietnam" Sadler
  • Production supervisor – Bill Stephney

Sample credits

The following lists some of the songs and sounds sampled on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. In an interview years later, producer Hank Shocklee said that in the face of increased clearance costs for copyrighted material that replicating the number of samples used on the album would not be impossible, but would be far more expensive than it was at the time.[33]

"Bring the Noise"
Too black...too strong"; extracted from a speech about the integration of the March on Washington where he says "It's just like when you've got some coffee that's too black, which means it's too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won't even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.
"Don't Believe the Hype"
  • "Synthetic Substitution" by Melvin Bliss (drums)
  • "Do the Funky Penguin" by Rufus Thomas (drums)
  • "I Got Ants in My Pants" by James Brown (drums)
  • "Escape-ism" by James Brown (trumpet squeak)
"Cold Lampin' with Flavor"
"Terminator X to the Edge of Panic"
"Louder Than a Bomb"
"Caught, Can We Get a Witness?"
  • "Blow Your Head" by Fred Wesley and The J.B.'s
  • "Son of Shaft" by The Bar-Kays (wah wah guitar)
  • "Theme from Shaft" by Isaac Hayes (wah wah guitar)
  • "Terminator X Speaks with His Hands" by Public Enemy
  • "Soul Power" (from the album Revolution of the Mind, 1971) by James Brown
  • "Hot Pants - I'm Coming, I'm Coming, I'm Coming" by Bobby Byrd (tambourine and drums)
"Show 'Em Whatcha Got"
  • "Son of Shaft (Live)" by Bar-Kays (Vocals: "Freedom is a road, seldom traveled by the multitude")
  • "Darkest Light" by the Lafayette Afro Rock Band
"She Watch Channel Zero?!"
"Night of the Living Baseheads"
  • Speech by Louis Farrakhan/Khalid Abdul Muhammad (intro)
  • "UFO" by ESG (sirens)
  • "Fame" by David Bowie
  • "The Grunt" by The J.B.'s (horn glissando)
  • "Scorpio" by Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band (drums)
  • "Son of Shaft" by Bar-Kays
  • "Funky Man" by Kool & The Gang
  • "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy (Vocals: "Bass! How low can you go?")
  • "Christmas Rappin'" by Kurtis Blow (Vocals: "Twas the night"/"Hold it now"
  • "Do the Funky Penguin" by Rufus Thomas (drums)
  • "Rock Steady" by Aretha Franklin (Vocals: "Rock!")
  • "I Can't Get Next to You" by The Temptations (Vocals: "Everybody hold it, listen")
  • "Pick Up the Pieces" by Average White Band
  • "You Can Make It If You Try" by Sly & the Family Stone (drums)
  • "Change Le Beat" by [[Fab Five Freddy (vocals:"This stuff")
  • "I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To" by Soul Children (Vocals: "Brothers and sisters")
  • "Here We Go" (Live at the Funhouse) by Run-DMC
  • "Sucker M.C.'s (Krush-Groove 1)" by Run-DMC (Drums/Vocals: "Years ago and First come, first serve basis")
  • "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" by James Brown
  • "Soul Power Pt. I" by James Brown
  • "Rappin' Ain't No Thang" by The Boogie Boys featuring Kool Ski, Kid Delight and Disco Dave (Vocals: "We are willing")
"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"
  • Spoken intro taken from a documentary film on country singer Johnny Cash upon his 1969 visit to San Quentin State Prison, where he would record a live album released later that year.
  • "Living for the City" by Stevie Wonder (Spoken word: "Get in that cell, nigger")
  • "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic" by Isaac Hayes (piano riff)
  • "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy (Vocals: "Now they got me in a cell", "death row, what a brother know")
"Rebel Without a Pause"
  • "The Grunt" by The J.B.'s (trumpet glissando)
  • "Funky Drummer" by James Brown (drums)
  • "Get Up Offa That Thing" by James Brown (horns)
  • "I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To" by The Soul Children (Vocals: "Brothers and sisters")
  • "Rock and Roll Dude" by Chubb Rock (Vocals: "Rock and roll")
  • "Pee-wee's Dance" by Joeski Love
"Prophets of Rage"
"Party for Your Right to Fight"
  • "Do That Stuff" by Parliament
  • "I Know You Got Soul" by Bobby Byrd (Vocals: "You got it!")
  • "Butt-to-Butt Resuscitation" by Funkadelic
  • "Get Up, Stand Up" by Bob Marley & the Wailers (Vocals: "Don't give up the fight")
  • "Sing a Simple Song" by Sly & The Family Stone (Vocals: "Oh yeah")
  • "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" by James Brown (Vocals: "Get involved, get into it")
  • "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)" by Beastie Boys (Vocals: "Fight!")

Album singles

Single information
"Rebel Without a Pause"
  • Released: 1987
  • B-side: "Sophisticated Bitch"
"Bring the Noise" Single from the Less Than Zero soundtrack
  • Released: 1987
  • A-side: "Are You My Woman?" by The Black Flames
"Don't Believe the Hype"
  • Released: 1988
  • B-side: "Prophets of Rage"
"Night of the Living Baseheads"
  • Released: 1988
  • B-side: "Cold Lampin' With Flavor" & "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic"
"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"
  • Released: 1989
  • B-side: "Caught, Can We Get A Witness? (Pre Black Steel Ballistic Felony Dub)"

Chart history

Album
Chart (1988) Peak
position[3]
U.S. Billboard 200 42
U.S. Top Black Albums 1
UK Albums Chart[34] 8
Singles
Song Chart (1988) Peak
position[35]
"Bring the Noise" U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks 56
"Don't Believe the Hype" U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks 18
U.S. Hot Dance Music/Club Play 21
U.S. Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales 17
"Night of the Living Baseheads" U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks 62
Song Chart (1989) Peak
position
"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks 86
U.S. Hot Rap Singles 11

Sample use

List of songs sampling material from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back:

Notes

  1. ^ Shapiro, pp. 304–306
  2. ^ Columnist. "Trio's Reunion Could Open Many Doors". Orlando Sentinel: August 21, 1988.
  3. ^ a b "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back: Billboard Albums at Allmusic". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:0pfixqu5ldhe~T3. Retrieved 2007-04-01. 
  4. ^ Gold & Platinum: Searchable Database. Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  5. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  6. ^ Jones, Chris. Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. BBC Online. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  7. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Consumer Guide: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back". The Village Voice: September 27, 1988. Archived from the original on 2009-12-06. Note: Christgau revised original rating of (A) to (A+)
  8. ^ a b Pareles, Jon. Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  9. ^ Columnist. "Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back". NME: 47. July 15, 1995.
  10. ^ Fricke, David. Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  11. ^ Hoard, Christian. "Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back". Rolling Stone: 661–662. November 2, 2004.
  12. ^ Schrodt, Paul. Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Slant Magazine. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  13. ^ Butler, Nick. Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Sputnikmusic. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  14. ^ Jenkins, Mark. "Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back". The Washington Post: d.07. July 6, 1988. (Transcription of original review at talk page)
  15. ^ Archive Search: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (12/1988 - 4/1989). Google News. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  16. ^ Pazz & Jop 1988: Critics Poll. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  17. ^ Pazz & Jop 1988: Dean's List. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  18. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Dancing on a Logjam: Singles Rool in a World Up for Grabs". The Village Voice: February 28, 1989.
  19. ^ Hilburn, Robert. "Public Enemy's Chuck D: Puttin' on the Rap". Los Angeles Times: 63. February 7, 1988.
  20. ^ Hilburn, Robert. $25 Guide: The Hottest Sizzlers of Summer. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  21. ^ Columnist. "Review: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back". Los Angeles Daily News: September 2, 1988.
  22. ^ Otto, Jeff. "Rolling Stone Essential Albums of the 90s at Rocklist.net". http://www.rocklist.net/rstone.html#Recordings%20of%20the%20%E2%80%9890s. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  23. ^ "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back at AcclaimedMusic.net". AcclaimedMusic.net. http://www.acclaimedmusic.net/061024/A721.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  24. ^ "The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums at Rocklist.net". http://www.rocklist.net/source.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  25. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back review". RollingStone.com. 2003-11-01. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/6598716/48_it_takes_a_nation_of_millions_to_hold_us_back. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  26. ^ www.acclaimedmusic.net
  27. ^ TIME.com - The All-TIME 100 Albums
  28. ^ amazon.ca - "Kurt Cobain's favorites"
  29. ^ Coleman, Brian. Check The Technique: Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies. New York: Villard/Random House, 2007.
  30. ^ Q August 2006, Issue 241
  31. ^ Chuck D discusses the Don't Look Back shows on The Quietus
  32. ^ "Public Enemy - "Louder Than A Bomb" title influence". http://www.morrissey-solo.com/news/1998/72.shtml. Retrieved 1 April 2007. 
  33. ^ http://www.stayfreemagazine.org/archives/20/public_enemy.html
  34. ^ [1]
  35. ^ "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back: Billboard Singles at Allmusic". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:0pfixqu5ldhe~T31. Retrieved 2007-04-01. 

References

  • Nathan Brackett, Christian Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-74320-169-8. 
  • Peter Shapiro (2005). Rough Guide to Hip Hop. 2nd. ed.. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1843532637. 

External links








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