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Music / It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

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Do believe this hype: It's really an excellent album!

"It still holds up. The beats and production are just incredible. Chuck, Flavor, political consciousness—we all know why this album's great. I can't say anything that hasn't been said about it."
Chris Rock, who put this album on #22 in his personal list of top 25 favorite Hip-Hop albums, Rolling Stone, 2006.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) is the most famous and critically lauded album by Public Enemy. It scored hits such as "Bring the Noise", "Caught, Can We Get a Witness?" and "Don't Believe the Hype".


Side Silver
  1. "Countdown to Armageddon" (1:40)
  2. "Bring the Noise" (3:46)
  3. "Don't Believe the Hype" (5:19)
  4. "Cold Lampin' with Flavor" (4:17)
  5. "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic" (4:31)
  6. "Mind Terrorist" (1:21)
  7. "Louder Than A Bomb" (3:37)
  8. "Caught, Can We Get a Witness?" (4:53)

Side Black

  1. "Show 'Em Whatcha Got?" (1:56)
  2. "She Watch Channel Zero?" (3:49)
  3. "Night of the Living Baseheads" (3:14)
  4. "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" (6:23)
  5. "Security of the First World" (1:20)
  6. "Rebel Without A Pause" (5:02)
  7. "Prophets of Rage" (3:18)
  8. "Party for Your Right to Fight" (3:24)

"It Takes a Nation of Tropers to Hold Us Back":

  • Album Title Drop: From "Party For Your Right To Fight":
    But it's proven and fact
    And it takes a nation of millions to hold us back.
  • Animal Motifs: Chuck D. calls himself "the rhyme animal".
  • Apocalypse How: "Countdown to Armageddon".
    Armageddon had been in effect
    Go get a late pass!
  • Arc Words: "Public Enemy Number One" and "Bring the Noise" are all over their work.
  • Artistic License – Biology: "Party for Your Right to Fight" says that white people were the result of experimentation on recessive genes.
  • Audience Participation Song: Many of the interludes and introductions on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back were recorded during their 1987 UK tour.
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
    • In "Bring the Noise" Chuck D. refers to the group as Public Enemy No. 1, a reference to a hit from their inaugural album Yo! Bum Rush The Show. The title of this album is referenced several other times in other songs on the album too.
    • In "Don't Believe the Hype" he raps: "Again, I said I was a time bomb", in reference to his 1987 song Timebomb. He also raps: Countdown to Armageddon, in reference to the opening track of the album.
    • In Louder Than A Bomb the line goes: And yes it weighs a ton, which is a callback to their song "Miuzi weighs a ton".
    • The song "Party For Your Right To Fight" would be referenced again during "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" from their next album Fear of a Black Planet, a track that also samples "Bring the Noise", "Rebel Without A Pause" and "Don't Believe The Hype". From that same album "Anti-Nigger Machine" samples "Black Steel in the Hour Of Chaos" and "Who Stole the Soul?" "Bring the Noise".
  • Conscious Hip Hop: Politics and social consciousness are a theme in every track.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "The Night of the Living Baseheads".
    This stuff is really bad, I'm talkin' 'bout base
    How long can you go?
  • Epic Rocking: "Don't Believe the Hype", "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" and "Rebel Without a Pause" are all over five minutes long.
  • Face on the Cover: Chuck D. and Flavor Flav behind bars.
  • The Golden Age of Hip Hop: A cornerstone of the genre.
  • Great Escape: "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos", in which the protagonist is sent to jail for not wanting to join the army, yet escapes.
  • Hell Is That Noise: "Bring the Noise".
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: "Louder Than a Bomb".
  • Hurricane of Puns:
    • "Bring the Noise":
    Now they got in me in a cell, because my records, they sell.
    • "Cold Lampin' With Flavor":
    Flavors are electric, try to get me a shocker
    (...) "Peter Perfect picked a perfect Peter.
    • "She Watch Channel Zero":
    The woman makes the men all pause, a pun on "menopause"
    (...) I 'mma take all your soaps and then I'm gonna hang 'em on a rope, a pun on "soap on a rope".
    • "Night of the Living Baseheads": The title in itself references the famous zombie movie Night of the Living Dead (1968), but it also provides puns on the word bass and base (another word for cocaine).
    • "Party for Your Right to Fight" changes the word order of The Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right" and changes the content so that is not about a party (a feast, a celebration) but a political party, namely the Black Panthers.
  • Lampshading:
    • From "Cold Lampin' With Flavor"
    We got Magnum Brown, Shooshki Palooshki
    You could put that in your "Don't know what you said" book
  • Live Album: The intro has audio taken from a concert the group did in London.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "Countdown to Armageddon", "Mind Terrorist", "Show 'Em Whatcha Got?" and "Security of the First World" are all under two minutes long.
  • Mistaken for Racist:"Don't Believe the Hype":
    Clear all the madness, I'm not a racist.
  • Political Rap: It's a Public Enemy record, after all.
  • Precision F-Strike: The only vulgarities on It Takes A Nation are in "Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos", "Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic" and "Rebel Without A Pause" ("I see you pissin' in your pants, you're scared of dissin' us").
  • Prison Episode: Chuck D. and Flavor Flav are shown behind bars on the album cover. In Bring the Noise Chuck raps: "Now they got me in a cell, because my records they sell." "Black Steel in The Hour Of Chaos" tells a tale about a draft evader sent to prison, who escapes later.
  • Product Placement: Clorox and Xerox are mentioned in "Don't Believe The Hype".
  • Protest Song: Almost every track.
    • Any references to "Honeydrippers" are aimed at the seminal funk band most famous for their "Impeach The President" single, and not the Robert Plant side project from The '80s.
  • Pun-Based Title:
  • Questioning Title?: "Caught, Can I Get A Witness?", "She Watch Channel Zero?"
  • Sampling: The entire album. Chuck D.'s opening cry of Bass! and once again, back is the incredible in itself has been sampled by other artists too. He also addresses the accusations of sampling in Can I Get A Witness?
    • "Don't Believe The Hype" samples Rufus Thomas' "Do The Funky Chicken" ("Now here's what I want y' all to do for me.")
    • "Prophets Of Rage" samples "Shining Star" by Earth, Wind & Fire, "Cold Sweat" by James Brown and the "get a little stupid" line is a sample from "Pump That Bass" (1986) by Original Concept.
    • "Party For Your Right To Fight" samples both "Fight For Your Right" by The Beastie Boys from Licensed to Ill and "Get Up, Stand Up" by Bob Marley, from Burnin'. The "ho yeah!" line is a sample from Sly and the Family Stone's "Sing A Little Song" from their album Stand! (1969).
    • "Night Of The Living Baseheads" samples "Sucker M.C.'s" from Run–D.M.C.'s debut album Run-D.M.C. (1984).
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Countdown To Armageddon" informs us The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
    • "Bring The Noise" references Louis Farrakhan, The Black Panthers (the slogan Power of the People), Yoko Ono, Run–D.M.C., Eric B. & Rakim, LL Cool J and Anthrax. The voice that says "Too black, too strong" is Malcolm X.
    • "Don't Believe The Hype" references Louis Farrakhan again, John Coltrane ("The treat me like Coltrane, insane"), the Bolo punch (a boxing punch by Sugar Ray Leonard), the Pan-African flag ("Get The Green, Black and Red"), Captain Kirk (Star Trek: The Original Series) and the slogan for Trix cereals ("No you can't have it back, silly rabbit.")
      • In the same song Chuck D. raps: Word to Herb, yo if you can't swing this/Learn the words, you might sing this. This received a reply from Ice Cube in his song "Amerikkka's Most Wanted", where he rapped: "Word, but the fuck is Herb?"
    • "Cold Lampin' With Flavor" refers to Magnum Brown's song "Shooski Balooski" and a TV ad for Imperial Maragarine ("Imperial Margarine put a crown on your head").
    • In "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic" a quote by Muhammad Ali is referenced: "You kill my dog, you better hide your cat."
    • "Louder Than A Bomb" references the Frank Sinatra film Tony Rome.
    • "Night Of The Living Baseheads" samples the line "First come, first basis" from Run–D.M.C.'s "Sucker MC's".
    • In "Rebel Without A Pause" Chuck D. claims he is a supporter of Chesimard. Assata Shakur (married name JoAnne Chesimard), a black activist who has been living in Cuba in political asylum since 1984. She is the step-aunt of Tupac Shakur. He also reference the 1974 documentary: "O.J. Simpson: Juice on the Loose".
    • "Prophets Of Rage": The title is a reference to a Life Magazine article about Malcolm X with the heading: "What ever happened to the prophets of rage?" He also namedrops black activists from the past like Marcus Garvey, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Posser. With the line "Mandela, cell dweller, Thatcher/ You can tell her clear the way for the prophets of rage/(Power of the people you say)" he references Nelson Mandela, who was still in jail at the time for his activism against South Africa's apartheid system. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did nothing against the country's racial system and even declared Mandela "a terrorist".
    • "Party For Your Right To Fight" references J Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver, as well as Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad.
  • Silly Love Songs/Intercourse with You: "Caught, Can I Get A Witness" suggests that the former is a façade for the latter.
    "You singers are spineless
    As you sing your senseless songs to the mindless
    Your general subject, love, is minimal
    It's sex for profit"
  • Singer Namedrop: Just like any other hip hop band they do this too and often.
  • Spelling Song: From "Rebel Without A Pause"
    We showin' up in E-F-F-E-C-T, also known as effect.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Several songs start off with soundbites from speeches by afrocentric speakers.
  • Take That!:
    • From "Don't Believe The Hype":
    A lot of people on daytime radio scared of us
    Because they too ignorant to understand the lyrics of the
    Truth that we pumping into them clogged up brain cells
    That just spun their little wooden skulls they call caps
    • And from "Terminator X to the edge of panic"
    Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy?
    • "Louder Than A Bomb" targets the CIA and FBI.
  • Take That, Critics!: "Bring the Noise" attacks the critics: Listen for lessons I'm saying inside music that the critics are blasting me for/ They'll never care for the brothers and sisters now, cause the country has us up for the war.
    "Don't Believe the Hype" is an entire attack on both the media and critics.
  • Wham Line: From "She Watch Channel Zero":
    Her brain's been trained by a 24 inch remote
    Revolution a solution for all of our children
    But her children don't mean as much as the show
  • Wicked Stepmother: From "Louder Than A Bomb"
    Wait 'till you treat me like a stepchild.
  • You Watch Too Much X: Replace "X" with "daytime TV", and you have the general gist of "She Watch Channel Zero?!".