Friday, October 07, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 243 - Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back

By: March

Album – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Artist – Public Enemy
Key Players - Professor Griff – Minister of Information. Terminator X – Assault Technician. Flavor Flav – The Cold Lamper. Chuck D – Messenger of Prophecy
Produced By – Rick Rubin (executive)

Release Date – April 14, 1988

What caused me to blow off the dust? - Okay I realize this is one of those records that many probably say “how can you forget it?” Remember this site is all about the whole album, not just a track..and sticking with that..its been a very long time since I've listened to this front to back.

Overview – This is the second album, and first major label release from New York rap act Public Enemy. Formed in 1982 the band would garner almost immediate fame with their politically heavy hip hop tracks. They'd mash up with Anthrax setting the metal and rap world on their heels. They have very few line up changes and barring some controversy in an article the band would be heralded as one of, if not the most import rap act. This album would be voted album of the year in the Village Voice and it continues to make “best of all time” lists to this day.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – A BBC intro from 1987 comes in “Countdown to Armageddon” which is just a live show about to start. Air raid sirens wail as audience cheers and the London Audience is warned. As the show seems to start it fades and “Bring the Noise” starts. Chuck D is the lead on the track with Flavor Flav shouting out key words, mostly his famous “yeah boy”. This version is not the sped up metal version with Anthrax. That would come later. D and Flav tandem on the second verse heavy with the samples and scratches from Terminator X. Another one of the bands bigger songs comes up in “Don't Believe the Hype”. A little slower on the back beat D and Flav are back firing off one another. Flav stammers and uses a slight delay on his “Don't..don't don't believe the hype” for added punch. The track has a deep groove, but the band is not dishing the lyrics very quickly. Flav has a little freak out near the end, but the song remains steady. Flavor Flav takes the lead on “Cold Lampin with Flavor”. The heavy looped sample allows Flav to be right on task and he delivers at a rapid pace. Remember..Flavor Flav is in everything you eat after all. We go back to a live setting for the intro on “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic”. The audience chance shouts “Terminator X” when asked who the DJ is. The track starts and the song “Flash Gordon” from Queen is sampled and scratched/delayed before the lyrics from Chuck D start. Terminator X finds some good samples to really cut the song up nice giving D and Flav various ins and outs on the track. “Mind Terrorist” has a cool loop at the start with almost a jazz back beat. Flav shouts “get that bass for your face” and tosses the “Yeah Boy” and these are the lone lyrics really sung/repeated for the 1:15 track. “Louder than a Bomb” finds Flav right at the start and after a few lines the bass gets low and he shouts out to Chuck D who then starts his run of rhymes. Terminator X seems to get a little bit of a showcase here as well. We got back to a live setting for some stage chants as “Caught, Can We Get A Witness?” starts up. Personally these are the tracks that stand out for their speed and prescsion. They are on a mission on this track which just adds to the appear. The lyrics are sprung on you quick and the tempo of the back beat really pushes it forward. The cool wah-wah guitar sample is perfect. “Show Em Whatcha Got” uses a saxophone repeating the same few notes as D chants “Public Enemy Number 1” and there are various lines spoken as the sax loop continues for close to 2 minutes. Flav starts out all by himself as “She Watch Channel Zero?!” begins. We have a more metal riff feel on this, we can see its laying the ground work for their work with Anthrax. The guitar riff buzzes and the drums are a bit canned, but feel like a live drummer. The simple back beat doesn't have the focus the guitar seems to garner. D and Flav work off one another per the norm, and this song has a heavy and almost angry feel. “Night Of The Living Bassheads” is another track that seems to use horns in the back beat/loop. Chuck D has the main lyric and the horn loop is almost overpowering at times. It just seems to play the same honking note. There is a cool break, but it comes back to the honking note. I can't stop focusing on it, and its really sort of annoying, I can't finish the track. We head back to London for a stage announcement and then “Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos” starts. This is a little darker, slower track. The bass is heavy and the lyrics are a bit more pointed. When I worked as an intern in Boston radio the main jock I worked with/for used “Security Of The First World” as a music bed when he took calls. He used a re-mix version that was a little longer. It was fun to watch because even talking to callers he knew when he needed to hit the button and get back to the start. Just this sample brings back a lot of memories. “Rebel Without A Pause” has some Terminator X work once more (there needs to be more!) we have a shivering sample that runs through the verses which gets old, but the backing snare sample sounds cool with Flavor firing back to Chuck D. The track ends when we go back to London for some live stage banter. “Prophets of Rage”has some great Terminator X work (ask and you shall receive I guess). We close the record out with “Party For Your Right To Fight”. A mix of heavy samples and scratching. A plus way to go out.

Where are they now? - Public Enemy is still writing and recording. They are no longer on a major label and choose to do things on their own terms. They have a new album due in 2012 according to reports.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I have never seen the band live. Figure my best chance would have been as part of Lollapalooza.

FDF Overall Take – It is very easy to hear why this record has and had such a wide appeal. Few acts seem to 'rap' today and this seems so new even though it is over 20 years old. The members have passion and urgency and it is not cluttered with a lot of fluff. I can't speak for the more recent albums, but the early ones, like this, are well worth your time.

The official band page

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The album is very much in print, you can grab it here.


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