How Public Enemy Made ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’


From Rolling Stone:

“I hated that record,” said Public Enemy’s Chuck D. Believe it or not, he’s referring to “Bring the Noise,” the frenetic first track of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, the group’s 1988 agit-rap masterpiece and breakthrough album. Public Enemy had recorded the song in October 1987 for the soundtrack of the forgettable Less Than Zero. When Chuck (a.k.a. Carlton Ridenhour) first heard the final version, he said, “I practically threw it out the window.”

He changed his mind later that year when Public Enemy were on tour in England. “I kept hearing people ask, ‘What’s this record you’ve got out? People are going crazy over it,’ ” he remembered. “I was like ‘OK, pull that acetate out, and let’s play it [in concert].’ People went berserk.”

“Bring the Noise,” along with “Rebel Without a Pause” and “Don’t Believe the Hype” – all conceived in 1987 at the group’s Hempstead, Long Island, studio, Spectrum City – would become the foundation of It Takes a Nation of Millions, an album that’s loud, obnoxious, funky, avant-garde, political, uncompromising and hilarious all at once. Chuck may have been disgruntled over “Bring the Noise,” but he always liked “Rebel Without a Pause,” the track that introduced Public Enemy’s trademark sirenlike horn squeals. Hank Shocklee of PE’s production team, the Bomb Squad, says that “Rebel” started out as a response to Eric B. and Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul.” “We were going for something that had the same feel but with more aggression,” Shocklee said. “Because we were angry.”

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