April 14th – Public Enemy release their multi-platinum sophomore album “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” on Def Jam Records, on this day in 1988.
Considered on many publications lists as the greatest hip-hop album of all time, the album would finish at number 48 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time, the highest ranking hip-hop album on the magazine’s list. The Source Magazine rated it as the greatest hip-hop album ever.
“It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” ushered in the golden era of hip-hop and the birth of politically socially-conscious rap music.
The album produced five classic anthem singles; “Rebel Without A Pause”, “Don’t Believe The Hype”, “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos”, “Night Of The Living Baseheads” and “Bring The Noise” which was featured in the 1987 film “Less Than Zero.”
“It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” also contained bona fide fan favorites like “She Watch Channel Zero”, “Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic”, “Party For Your Right To Fight”, Prophets Of Rage” and “Cold Lampin’ With Flavor” as well as the instrumental “Security Of The First World”, sampled by Madonna on her 1990 smash hit “Justify My Love.”
The album contained a potpourri of musical samples that created a melting pot of new hip-hop musical styles as well as speech snippets by Minister Malcolm X, Dr. Khalid Muhammad, Minister Ava Muhammad and The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, showing the album’s influence by The Nation Of Islam.
“Nation’s” music videos were groundbreaking as the world’s first concept videos like “Night Of The Living Baseheads” and “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos” which featured cameo appearances by artists like DJ Red Alert, MC Lyte and EPMD to name a few.
“It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’s” time signatures were also a break from traditional hip-hop, escalating the tempos, at times, to 108 beats per minute.
Instead of labeling the album’s vinyl and cassette versions sides as side 1 and side 2, “Nation” instead chose to label the album by the “Black” side and the “Silver” side, Def Jam’s trademark colors.
Initially the “Black” side would open the album with the track “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” but Bomb Squad producer Hank Shocklee decided at the last minute to flip the sides and start the album with the “Silver” side, opening “Nation” with England’s Dave Pearce introducing Public Enemy in concert on our previous U.K. tour.
Songs from “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” have been covered by Tricky, Rage Against The Machine, Staind (featuring Fred Durst), Sepultura and Delaney’s Rhythm Section.