Apple Music 100 Best Albums

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It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Public Enemy


The heralding of hip-hop’s arrival as a radical, political art form.

By 1988, hip-hop was already a decade and a half old. Still, even as certain artists or groups made great strides in breaking through industry barriers and into the mainstream consciousness, the genre remained largely misunderstood. Thankfully, Public Enemy was ready, willing, and able to take on that fight. Dogmatic MC Chuck D and rapping hype man Flavor Flav had already delivered a devastating opening salvo with 1987’s unambiguously confrontational debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show, putting Black nationalist politics and imagery at the forefront.

By comparison, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back felt like a veritable firebombing—a rap blitzkrieg led by a boisterous lyricist with a defiantly militant mindset. That revolutionary energy was palpable on “Bring the Noise” and “Don’t Believe the Hype,” seminal songs with hooks that sounded more like marching orders. Even further down the tracklist, cuts like “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” and “Rebel Without a Pause” hit as hard as what came before, the messaging as provocative and righteous as any on the album.

“It’s still relevant to the climate today. It meant that no matter whatever happens in life, can’t nothing hold us back.”

Flavor Flav

Public Enemy