Bass for your face

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is still a near-perfect classic 27 years later


Andrew Burnes, Editor


Somebody in the house say yeah! Over two decades removed from its 1988 release, Public Enemy’s unabridged masterpiece, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is still just as fun to listen to as it was back then, not to mention still as relevant today as it was at its time. Whether that’s due to the album’s long-lasting mastery or our nation’s refusal to make any sort of social progress in 30 years is up for debate, but regardless of social context Nation is a premier example of why Rap music matters.

Obviously Chuck D’s infectious flow (he’s still regarded as one of the greatest of all time) is the central pillar of what Public Enemy was. Terminator X threatens to steal the show, rocking those funky beats like true master and creating an explosion of creativity in not only Hip-Hop, but dance music as a whole. And let’s not forget about Flava Flav. Largely derided as the Jar Jar Binks of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there’s absolutely no way you can listen to any track on this LP and come away with a solid argument against his flair for comic relief and bringing the noise. Hell, he even gets his own solo beat and nails it without even breaking a sweat.

Track for track, Nation is solid as a rock, rivaling even standout Kanye albums like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Late Registration. Intro “Bring the Noise” stands alone as perhaps the greatest four minutes ever recorded by a rap group, an incredible rhyme animal that stalks through the jungle as king of the mountain. “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic” lives up to its namesake to the letter while “Louder than a Bomb” delivers on that promise. Hip-Hop heads justifiably worship “Rebel without a Pause;” while Flava’s hook on “Don’t Believe the Hype” will get stuck in your head faster than “This is a Problem” by Cash and Dayone. Other than “Bring the Noise,” though, it’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” that steals the show, sampling a sick Issac Hayes classic soul rhythm that goes off like napalm in the middle of a crowd of protesters as Chuck D drops his most time-tested rhymes to date, “They could not understand that I’m a black man/and I could never be a veteran/on the strength, the situation’s unreal/I got a raw deal, so I’m goin’ for the steel.” Undeniable.