Sunday, April 14, 2013

it takes a nation of millions to hold us back

Public Enemy brought the noise and revolutionized hip hop with the dense collaged chaos and powerful political passion of this explosive manifesto.  Having established themselves with their debut 'Yo! Bum Rush the Show', the posse in effect of MC Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour), Hype man Flavor Flav (William Jonathan Drayton, Jr.), DJ Terminator X (Norman Rogers), Minister of Information Professor Griff (Richard Griffin), and the Bomb Squad: (former members of Spectrum City) Hank and Keith Shocklee (Boxley) and Eric "Vietnam" Sadler were ready to up the ante on their dynamic sound.  'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back' was recorded in thirty days at Chung King Studios, Greene St. Recording, and Sabella Studios in New York City with assistant production by Eric "Vietnam" Sadler; engineering by Greg Gordon, John Harrison, Jeff Jones, Jim Sabella, Nick Sansano, Christopher Shaw, Matt Tritto, and Chuck Valle; executive production by Rick Rubin; mixing by Keith Boxley, DJ Chuck Chillout, Steven Ett, and Rod Hui; photography by Glen E. Friedman; production by Carl Ryder and Hank Shocklee; production supervision by Bill Stephney; programming by Eric "Vietnam" Sadler and Hank Shocklee; scratching by Norman Rogers and Johnny Juice Rosado; turntables by Johnny Juice Rosado and Terminator X; and vocals by Harry Allen, Chuck D, Fab 5 Freddy, Flavor Flav, Erica Johnson, Oris Josphe, and Professor Griff. 

With hundreds of samples layered together, 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back' was recorded on analog tape and mixed by hand.  The process took six weeks to complete with considerable preproduction at the band's studio in Long Island.  Chuck D explains:    "Sampling basically comes from the fact that rap music is not music. It's rap over music. So vocals were used over records in the very beginning stages of hip-hop in the 0s to the early '80s. In the late 1980s, rappers were recording over live bands who were basically emulating the sounds off of the records. Eventually, you had synthesizers and samplers, which would take sounds that would then get arranged or looped, so rappers can still do their thing over it...We thought sampling was just another way of arranging sounds. Just like a musician would take the sounds off of an instrument and arrange them their own particular way. So we thought we was quite crafty with it."

Hank Shocklee considers:    "The first thing we would do is the beat, the skeleton of the track. The beat would actually have bits and pieces of samples already in it, but it would only be rhythm sections. Chuck would start writing and trying different ideas to see what worked. Once he got an idea, we would look at it and see where the track was going. Then we would just start adding on whatever it needed, depending on the lyrics. I kind of architected the whole idea. The sound has a look to me, andPublic Enemy was all about having a sound that had its own distinct vision. We didn't want to use anything we considered traditional R&B stuff--bass lines and melodies and chord structures and things of that nature...The only time copyright was an issue was if you actually took the entire rhythm of a song, as in looping, which a lot of people are doing today. You're going to take a track, loop the entire thing, and then that becomes the basic track for the song. They just paperclip a backbeat to it. But we were taking a horn hit here, a guitar riff there, we might take a little speech, a kicking snare from somewhere else. It was all bits and pieces...A lot of stuff was cleared afterwards. Back in the day, things was different. The copyright laws didn't really extend into sampling until the hip-hop artists started getting sued. As a matter of fact, copyright didn't start catching up with us until 'Fear of a Black Planet'. That's when the copyrights and everything started becoming stricter because you had a lot of groups doing it and people were taking whole songs. It got so widespread that the record companies started policing the releases before they got out."

'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back' forced its way to ninety-three in Canada, forty-two on the US Billboard 200, forty in the Netherlands, eight in the UK, and number one on the US R&B/Hip Hop album chart.  The album topped the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll in 1988.  The charged political lyrics were balanced by the comedic foil of the hype man and the mix of industrial noise, jazz, funk, and rock made for a unique and unprecedented sound that has proven highly influential.

"Bring the Noise" hit thirty-six on the US R&B/Hip Hop chart and thirty-two in the UK. 

"Don't Believe the Hype" hit forty-six in New Zealand, twenty-one on the US dance chart; and eighteen in the UK and on the R&B/Hip Hop chart. 

"Cold Lampin' with Flavor" 

"Terminator X to the Edge of Panic" 

"Louder Than a Bomb" – 3:37 

Public Enemy - Louder Than A Bomb by jpdc11

"Caught, Can We Get a Witness?" – 4:53 

"Show 'Em Whatcha Got" – 1:56 

"She Watch Channel Zero?!" 

"Night of the Living Baseheads" creeped up to sixty-three in the UK, sixty-two on the R&B/Hip Hop chart, and number twenty-one in New Zealand. 

Public Enemy - Night Of The Living Baseh by jpdc11

"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" hit eighty-six on the R&B/Hip Hop chart and eleven on the US rap chart.  

"Security of the First World"  became a hit for Madonna when she sampled it on 'Justify My Love'. 

"Rebel Without a Pause" made it to number thirty-seven in the UK. 

"Prophets of Rage" 

"Party for Your Right to Fight" 

'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'
full album:

All tracks produced by The Bomb Squad. All songs composed by Carlton "Chuck D" Ridenhour, Eric "Vietnam" Sadler, and Hank Shocklee, except where noted.  

Side Silver
Countdown To Armageddon  1:41
Bring The Noise   3:47
Don't Believe The Hype (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, William "Flavor Flav" Drayton) 5:20
Cold Lampin With Flavor (Sadler, Shocklee, Drayton) 4:13
Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic (Ridenhour, Norman "Terminator X" Rogers, Drayton) 4:30
Mind Terrorist   1:18
Louder Than A Bomb   3:37
Caught, Can We Get A Witness?   5:03
Side Black
Show 'Em Whatcha Got  1:57
She Watch Channel Zero?! (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, Richard "Professor Griff" Griffin, Drayton) 3:50
Night Of The Living Baseheads 3:16
Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, Drayton) 6:25
Security Of The First World 1:22
Rebel Without A Pause (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, Rogers) 5:05
Prophets Of Rage (Ridenhour, Sadler, Shocklee, Drayton) 3:15
Party For Your Right To Fight 3:27

No comments:

Post a Comment