Saturday, July 23, 1988

Public Enemy charted with It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

First posted 7/23/2011; updated 6/14/2019.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Public Enemy

Released: 6/28/1988

Charted: 7/23/1988

Peak: #42 US, #8 UK,

Sales (in millions): 1.72 US, 0.1 UK, 1.82 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: rap

Quotable: “A record that rewrote the rules of what hip-hop could do” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Countdown to Armageddon
  2. Bring the Noise (2/6/88, #32 UK, #56 RB)
  3. Don’t Believe the Hype (7/16/88, #18 UK, #18 RB)
  4. Cold Lampin’ with Flavor
  5. Terminator X to the Edge of the Panic
  6. Mind Terrorist
  7. Louder Than a Bomb
  8. Caught, Can We Get a Witness?
  9. Show ‘Em Whatcha Got
  10. She Watch Channel Zero?!
  11. Night of the Living Baseheads (11/12/88, #63 UK, #62 RB)
  12. Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos (4/22/89, #86 RB)
  13. Security of the First World
  14. Rebel without a Pause (11/21/87, #37 UK)
  15. Prophets of Rage
  16. Party for Your Right to Fight


Nation isn’t just considered to be the greatest rap album ever made by many, but is considered “one of the greatest and most influential albums of all-time” WK in any genre. The group itself has said they “set out to make what they considered to be the hip hop equivalent to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, an album noted for its strong social commentary.” WK

“Welding Chuck D’s hectoring black-power agenda to the equality militant sound of the Bomb Squad’s apocalyptic sample barrage, the fierce Nation made traditional rock & roll posturing seem museum-bound.” BLYo! 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.” STE

“This coincided with a breakthrough in Chuck D’s writing, both in his themes and lyrics.” STE “Chuck D. scared the hell out of America’s white parents with lyrics that praised Louis Farrakhan and a delivery that made retributive black violence seem inevitable, rational and – egad! – cool.” TL

“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.” STE As Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn said, Chuck D “isn’t afraid of being labeled an extremist, and it’s that fearless bite – or game plan – that helps infuse his black-consciousness raps with the anger and assult of punk pioneers like the Sex Pistols and Clash.” WK

Chuck D’s “deeply felt and commercially calculated radicalism was best expressed in Bring the Noise and Rebel Without a Pause, whip-smart, reference-filled songs saved from pretension by Flavor Flav, rap’s greatest hype man, who even makes the prison break in Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos seem like daffy fun.” TL

“Some of the song titles make reference to other works from popular culture. The song title ‘Rebel Without a Pause’ is a play on Rebel Without a Cause, a film from 1955 starring actor James Dean. The title of the track Louder Than a Bomb was influenced by the title of The Smiths’ album Louder Than Bombs. The title of the song Party for Your Right to Fight is a rerrangement of the Beastie Boys’ 1987 hit single ‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)’.” WK

“Producers Bill Stephney, Hank Shocklee, and Terminator X – known as The Bomb Squad – laced every track with siren-wails and funk explosives that ratcheted the tension ever higher.” TL They developed “a dense and chaotic production style that relied on found sounds and avant-garde noise as much as it did on old-school funk.” WK Shocklee has said, “Chuck’s a powerful rapper. We wanted to make something that could sonically stand up to him.” WK

“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.” STE

Review Source(s):


Def Leppard finally hit #1 with Hysteria: July 23, 1988

Originally posted July 23, 2012.

image from

Def Leppard broke through with 1983’s Pyromania, an album which “introduced a new form of highly polished, melodic heavy rock.” TB It was so successful many assumed the band couldn’t reach those heights again. They began work on a follow-up in late ’84, TB but were derailed on New Year’s Eve when drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car accident. They “stuck by their old mate,” RS going on hiatus for most of 1985 TB and waiting for him to learn to play drums with a customized drum set built which allowed him to trigger fills with his feet. PR


To further complicate things, the band initially tapped “Mutt” Lange as the producer. He dropped out and they turned to Jim Steinman of Meat Loaf fame. However, was more interested in a raw rock record while the band wanted a more pristine sound. The band then tried unsuccessfully to self-produce the album WK before Lange returned. Sessions were delayed again when he suffered injuries from a car accident and then once more when singer Joe Elliott was hit with the mumps in 1986. WK

Pour Some Sugar on Me

Lange’s goal was to make “a hard rock version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, in that every track was a potential hit single.” WK Like Pyromania, the members of the band were brought in separately to record. WK “The multiple vocal harmonies were enhanced by Lange’s techniques…[and] guitar parts were now focused more on emphasising melody than hard rock’s more basic and cliched riffs.” WK While the album had “production value bleeding from its pores” ZG its “unavoidably addictive hits” ZG made it “arguably the best pop-metal ever recorded.” AZ Few “pop-metal bands…could compete with Leppard’s sense of craft; certainly none had the pop songwriting savvy to produce seven chart singles from the same album.” AMG Its blockbuster success helped pave the way for a whole new second wave of hair metal bands, while proving that the late-‘80s musical climate could also be very friendly to veteran hard rock acts, a lead many would follow in the next few years.” AMG

Love Bites

The album ultimately sold over 12 million copies in the U.S. and more than 20 million worldwide. However, the album was a slow burner, not hitting #1 on the Billboard 200 until the album was nearly a year old and on its fourth single. The first U.S. single, Women peaked at a lowly #80. Animal, the first single in the U.K. and second in the U.S, brought the group to the top ten and top twenty respectively. Follow-up singles in the U.S. were even bigger. The title cut, Hysteria, got the band in the top ten for the first time stateside; the “playfully silly anthem Pour Some Sugar on MeAMG took the band all the way to #2. With the album showing no signs of letting up, the band released its fifth, and biggest, U.S. single – the #1 Love Bites, “one of the few pop-metal ballads that doesn’t sound saccharine.” AZ Next up, “Armageddon It” gave the band another top 5 and then the “British glam rock tribute RocketAMG landed the group in the top 20 once more.


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