Seminars have been erected on the collegiate level to discuss how this album was constructed. Production was handled by a crew called The Bomb Squad (Chuck D, Hank Shocklee, Eric Sadler, Keith Shocklee). They were able to take seemingly unrelated, unmusical, un-melodic sounds and put them together into an organized form of chaos.
Furthermore, they sampled just about everybody from James Brown, Gil Scott-Heron, My Bloody Valentine, Isaac Hayes, Stevie Wonder, Kool & The Gang and John Coltrane to Bob Marley, Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Queen, Slayer, Run DMC and so many more, making them sonically and universally appealing. How they did it still remains a mystery of sorts.
What isn’t a mystery is the power of Chuck D’s voice, which he proclaimed was “Louder Than A Bomb.” Lyrically, Chuck represented everything that hip-hop’s potential wielded: strength, power, brashness, intellect, and leadership.
He had a mission that he explained to AllHipHop.com in 2008: “We wanted to show everyone in the United States that if you ain’t up on us, the rest of the world is. We showed the media that rap was worldwide. People that were thinking that we weren’t hot enough, well the rest of the world is on it and you better get up on it. Because we have people in London and everywhere else; still to this day we tell the United States if you think you on top, we’ll tell you are actually behind the rest of the world.”
It Takes A Nation has been in Hip-Hop Hall of Fame since ’88
With Flavor Flav, all of the militant energy was lightened instantly. He was hip-hop’s jester and yet he was representative of the “everyman.” But he is also well represented as an artist with “Cold Lampin With Flavor,” as well as playing hype man to Chuck D. Flav truly helped spread the gospel to the hood.
When you mix in players like Prof. Griff, the military styled soldiers The S1Ws, The Bomb Squad and DJ Terminator X, who never spoke, you have all the makings of a perfect sonic storm.
All in all, it is impossible to quantify what this album meant to people. It Takes A Nation Of Millions encapsulated dreams, rage, hopes and the possibilities of real social change. In hindsight, some have attempted to dismiss the album and the movement as cartoonish and unreal with songs titles like “Mind Terrorist,” “Security of the First World,” “Prophets of Rage,” and “Rebel Without A Pause.” But this notion and assertion is that of an observer and a revisionist.
At the time, the critics and America to some extent were concerned — scared, even. They weren’t thugs, but Chuck D, a man’s man, absolutely intimidated, staying true to the original vision of Public Enemy. Even Flavor Flav went on to do great things in entertainment and TV, not content with staying on the sidelines.
And quite frankly, those that study music know that this album impacted every artist and producer from Dr. Dre to Ice Cube to Tupac and then some.
PE’s greatness didn’t start with It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, but it will forever be solidified by the album.
Music critic Robert Christgau called this album “the bravest and most righteous experimental pop of the decade.” He was so right. And 25 years later, those millions that hoped to hold Public Enemy back have failed miserably.
Perhaps it was those rebellious white teens all grown up that got Public Enemy into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame, but they have been in our collective Hip-Hop Hall of Fame since ’88.
Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur is a father, son and the co-founder of AllHipHop.com. He’s a cultural critic, pundit and trailblazer that has been featured on National Public Radio (NPR), BET, TVOne, VH1, The E! Channel, MTV, The O’Reilly Factor, USA Today, The New York Times, New York’s Hot 97 FM and like a zillion other outlets.