Artist: Public Enemy
Album: It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Label: Def Jam
Rating: 10 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Let me start with this broad sweeping generalisation: If you don €™t have this album in your collection, you don €™t have a proper record collection. This is not just one of (if not the best) hiphop albums of all time, it is one of the best albums ever made. It may be hard for your average reader who €™s been raised on a diet of Jay-Z, DMX, etc to grasp the gravity of this statement. This album was made in a period of hiphop when a whole album had to be good to sell. Rap music was not getting big radio airplay, videos had trouble getting aired etc. So an artist couldn €™t rely on a banging first single getting played to death on commercial radio, to a fanbase who would go zombie-like to the store to pick up the album, which had that one hot single, maybe another couple of thumpers, and another 14-15 tracks of what could politely be described as filler. In those days (damn this is like a history lesson!), a whole album had to bump from start to finish. The EPMDs, the Stets, the Rakims, the BDPs, the PEs :all where dropping phat albums that jockeyed for attention on your turntables. Competition for the audience €™s ears and pockets was fierce, and emcees had to come correct over good beats, to stay at the top of their game. And then PE dropped the bomb.
A lot of rap music at this time had been party oriented. PE had already kicked a few doors open with their debut “Yo! Bumrush The Show” which had more concious lyrics over beats with a harder edge. BDP, the Jungle Brother, Lakim Shabazz (from the Flavor Unit), the Poor Righteous Teachers were a few other groups who were also dropping more intelligent and spiritual types of rhymes. But when It Takes A Nation Of Millions : dropped it was clear to see who was top of the pile, and who was setting the agenda for things to come…
There are just too many dope joints on this album to break them all down and review each one, so I €™ll just give a few opinions on the best of the best… if you wanna know more and don €™t have the album, for God €™s sake pick it up – its a hip hop classic!
To begin with the intro to the album did something new and unheard of: It used excerpts from a PE tour of the UK… a US group acknowledging that there was a market for hiphop outside America? At this time this was unheard of… and then the fun began, as the first joint ‘Bring The Noise’ dropped. Production throughout this album is perfect but ‘Bring the Noise’ is an absolute gem. Over a quick loop Chuck D spits fire at all those who seek to put hiphop and PE down. Everything just fits perfectly – Chuck €™s verbal barrage, Flavor Flav coming in and out of the chorus urging Chuck to do some more damage, Terminator X doing a mad audio trick on the bridge with a pulled-backwards-guitar-sample. Hiphop heaven.
And then from one piece of dopeness to another – ‘Don €™t Believe The Hype’. A funky ass loop with a trumpet squeal on the end of each bar, and one of the simplest choruses you €™ll ever hear. People used to hearing Eminem and Dilated drop mad multiples, may laugh at Chuck €™s attempt to flip it, but I know back in the day any of you had this album rhymed word for word with the man, as he went off at racist instutions who €œattack the black, because I know they lack exact, the cold facts, and still they try to xerox, the leader of the new school, uncool, never played the fool just made the rules.”
As I said before this album is just too good. From the ode to turntable greatness that is ‘Terminator X: To The Edge Of Panic’ with the pulse racing Flash Gordon / Queen sample at the start, to PE €™s manic attack on crack users and dealers (‘Night Of The Living Baseheads’), almost every track on this could have been released as a single (apart from my pet hate ‘She Watch Channel Zero’ – hiphop and rock gutiars do not mix… but thats a whole other article). But I couldn’t finish this little piece without mentioning that “It Takes A Nation” contains THE BEST HIPHOP TRACK OF ALL TIME. Surely everyone and their mother has heard ‘Rebel Without A Pause’ by now? This one track set so many standards that others have followed since, its not even funny. And the annoying thing is, like so many other dope songs, its so simple in construction. Take a sample of James Brown €™s ‘Funky Drummer’, mix in a little horn sample from an old Maseo record, and then after every verse shout €œTerminator X! € over and over again! And yet, put this up against any hip hop joint recorded before or since, and ‘Rebel’ tops it for raw energy, dopeness, and that ill goose pimply feeling you get when you hear a good song and just think to yourself ‘Oh my God’.
PE to many of today €™s younger hiphoppers (damn I do feel old!), may not mean much (if anything at all). But seriously folks, if you don €™t have this album – do yourself a favour and grab it instead of that new Murderers shit, or the new Cash Money shit. You €™ll thank me one day…