Public Enemy

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

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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 1:40 Amazon
2 3:46 Amazon
3 5:19 Amazon
4 4:17 Amazon
5 4:31 Amazon
6 1:21 Amazon
7 3:38 Amazon
8 4:53 Amazon
9 1:56 Amazon
10 3:49 Amazon
11 3:15 Amazon
12 6:24 Amazon
13 1:20 Amazon
14 5:03 Amazon
15 3:19 Amazon
16 3:25 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick