Public Enemy

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

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It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Yo! Bum Rush the Show was an invigorating record, but it looks like child's play compared to its monumental sequel, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, a record that rewrote the rules of what hip-hop could do. That's not to say the album is without precedent, since what's particularly ingenious about the album is how it reconfigures things that came before into a startling, fresh, modern sound. Public Enemy used the template Run-D.M.C. created of a rap crew as a rock band, then brought in elements of free jazz, hard funk, even musique concrète, via their producing team, the Bomb Squad, creating a dense, ferocious sound unlike anything that came before. This coincided with a breakthrough in Chuck D's writing, both in his themes and lyrics. It's not that Chuck D was smarter or more ambitious than his contemporaries -- certainly, KRS-One tackled many similar sociopolitical tracts, while Rakim had a greater flow -- but he marshaled considerable revolutionary force, clear vision, and a boundless vocabulary to create galvanizing, logical arguments that were undeniable in their strength. They only gained strength from Flavor Flav's frenzied jokes, which provided a needed contrast. What's amazing is how the words and music become intertwined, gaining strength from each other. Though this music is certainly a representation of its time, it hasn't dated at all. It set a standard that few could touch then, and even fewer have attempted to meet since.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Public Enemy 01:40 Amazon
2 Public Enemy 03:46 Amazon
3 Public Enemy 05:19 Amazon
4 Public Enemy 04:17 Amazon
5 Public Enemy 04:31 Amazon
6 Public Enemy 01:21 Amazon
7 Public Enemy 03:38 Amazon
8 Public Enemy 04:53 Amazon
9 Public Enemy 01:56 Amazon
10 Public Enemy 03:49 Amazon
11 Public Enemy 03:15 Amazon
12 Public Enemy 06:24 Amazon
13 Public Enemy 01:20 Amazon
14 Public Enemy 05:03 Amazon
15 Public Enemy 03:19 Amazon
16 Public Enemy 03:25 Amazon
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