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It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
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It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (33⅓ #71)

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  199 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Christopher Weingarten's take on "Nation Of Millions" is a nuts-and-bolts account of how the Bomb Squad produced such a singular-sounding record - the engineering, sampling, scratching, constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing. How they re-sampled their own scratches to create "Bring The Noise", how they plundered and reconfigured their own composition for the proto ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 2010)
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Jun 29, 2015 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: about-music
Another strong entry in the 33 1/3 series. Weingarten peels the lid back on the dense production of one of hip-hops seminal records.

A lot of 33 1/3 books tend to get marred down with too much personal biography; either of the author or of the band itself. This book wisely focuses in, with laser-like intensity, on the biography of the noises and sounds on 'nation of millions...' itself, tracing back the lineage of the album's samples to their origins with James Brown's backing players, parliamen
a.h.s. boy
Jun 16, 2013 a.h.s. boy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first foray into the 33 1/3 series, and I can't imagine a better one. This is a phenomenal book about a phenomenal album, but more importantly, this is a book about the history of music sampling and the evolution of an entirely new genre of music.

With page after page of detailed foundational information, and fascinating parallels drawn between significant moments in Black history (civil rights, the deaths of Malcolm X and MLK, James Brown and the rise of funk) and the evolution of Public Enem
Peter Landau
Apr 15, 2014 Peter Landau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in the 1980s I was trying to be all punk rock years after punk rock had passed on. My friends and I were wedded to a reactionary vision of music that had lost relevance and was in the process of spreading to the suburban malls where it belonged, though that was still a number of years in the future in the mid-to-late 1980s. But the blinders I wore let in some light, such as hearing Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five or “Planet Rock” after hours on the disco radio stations. I liked it. B ...more
Sep 19, 2014 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
These 33-1/3 books absolutely serve one very, very useful purpose: no matter what, they make you want to listen to the source material. In this case, Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Which I listen to from time to time anyway.

It would be endlessly fascinating to hear how Chuck D and the Bomb Squad assembled this beautifully tuneless album and Weingarten gets us halfway there, pointing us at the techniques and clips that were used. But he gets caught up in his own cle
Joel Neff
May 27, 2012 Joel Neff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While other books in the 33 /13 series strive to show how an album defined its artist, Public Enemies' It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back works, instead, to show how an album can define its time. In fact, much of the book reads more like a history book rather than a music book; by explaining the history of the Civil Rights movement, the author is able to define how radical (in the original sense) this record was when it dropped.

In particular, careful attention is given to the samples
Jul 18, 2010 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
I had high hopes for this 33 1/3 and it certainly did NOT let me down! This book did what I always hope these 33 1/3 books will do- it made one of my very favorite albums ever sound new and exciting again. I can't believe all of the samples I didn't recognize! And the little stories about the samples... my favorite image from the book is Flav recording P.E. on the radio and grabbing "I guarantee you- no more music by these suckers" from the DJ. Oh! And Chuck creating the logo from an E.Love pic. ...more
Doug Merlino
Feb 15, 2011 Doug Merlino rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weingarten does a great job tracing the samples PE used on this classic album to sources such as James Brown, P-Funk, Isaac Hayes, and the 1972 Wattstax concert. In the process he shows how the group built on and fed off the energy of those predecessors, updating their sound for the Reagan era and the age of samplers. Weingarten also contextualizes PE within the NY hip-hop scene and shows how contemporaries such as Run DMC influenced and played a role in the making of this album. I would have li ...more
Jul 09, 2011 FittenTrim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As a writing exercise, I will try to write my review as poorly as the author of this book because convoluted, as it may be, and history has a way of being confusing, which James Brown's drummer might know, but the Bomb Squad tried to use a different mix, but RFK was killed in the 60s, which history will affect... Ugh, I can't do it anymore. The writer doesn't interview any band members, provides barely any insight into the album. Rather, he focuses on the music which PE sampled. And even then, h ...more
Jul 20, 2010 Jhk711 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great read for anyone interested in hip hop's most historically important and culturally influential group, and their most important/influential album. The book is dedicated solely to breaking down Public Enemy's second album track by track, sample by sample, scratch by scratch, and provides some minor background details on Chuck D and the Bomb Squad (and, to a much lesser degree, Flav, Griff and Terminator X). As someone who has listened to the album thousands of times over the past 22 years, ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This should be the template for all 33 1/3 books: An author takes a record that they know by heart, then turns it inside out and figures out what makes it tick. Personally I don't care about the author's experience with the record (which is a mode that many 33 1/3 books fall into), I want to know why the artist made their decisions and what led up to those decisions. Weingarten does this by dismantling the myriad samples that the Bomb Squad used and discovers why they were chosen and how they fi ...more
Jul 09, 2011 Danielroffle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Noted internet message board user Christopher R. Weingarten gives us a dizzying take on one of Hip-Hop's most canonical albums, furnishing copious details not only on the album itself, but on some of the numerous songs sampled on it as well. This serves to contextualize P.E. within a larger framework of american pop music, and also has an interesting side-effect: while most 33 1/3 volumes will make you want to relisten to the album they're about, this book actually makes you want to explore *oth ...more
Michael Roeder
Jan 16, 2016 Michael Roeder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic and essential read about the groundbreaking PE album. Gives great frame of reference for the release.
Mason Jones
Oct 26, 2011 Mason Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy the 33 1/3 series of small books about records, and though I've tried a couple that did fail to entertain, for the most part they're really fun reads. This one is a good example. I love the album in question, and this book takes an interesting angle by discussing all of the samples used by the group. This basically makes the book a history of the music that came before Public Enemy and influenced them: James Brown, Funkadelic, Isaac Hayes and Stax Records, Kurtis Blow, Run-DMC, an ...more
Jack Bates
Jan 13, 2016 Jack Bates rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this. I went through the whole thing and listened to all the tracks that the samples were taken from, brilliant. :)
May 12, 2014 secondwomn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, 2014
the bigger a music nerd you are, the more you will like this.
Sep 20, 2013 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though new to the album, I ravenously devoured this book. It is exactly what I originally expected the 33 1/3 series to be: making of, history and context, designed for the fan for whom liner notes are not enough. AND this is an exciting read(!), seamlessly linking Public Enemy's passionate mission to the stories of the risk-taking musicians/music they sample. The ones in the book I found most notable were James Brown, Isaac Hayes, the 1972 Wattstax Festival and Russell Simmons' unsuccessful goa ...more
Andrew Kleimola
Dec 27, 2013 Andrew Kleimola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with the Paul's Boutique book, I appreciate the amount of research that went into the book. I only wish the author had actually been able to speak directly with the creators as the author of Paul's Boutique (or Bee Thousand, for that matter) had. Any quotes attributed to anyone involved with making this album seems to have come from another source. The author also makes the seemingly tangential descriptions of James Brown and Isaac Hayes fit, though I doubt any reader would have noticed if th ...more
Bill Fuller
May 25, 2010 Bill Fuller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely well-researched book about one of hip-hop's seminal albums. Overstuffed with information, it's almost a scholarly approach to Public Enemy and rap music, which is usually interesting, if not always fun to read. It's best to try and read this in one or two sittings if possible, as the book jumps around in time periods frequently and makes connections in different parts of the book that require close attention. Overall, a high quality entry in the 33 1/3 series that could have benefitted ...more
Michael Gonzalez
May 17, 2012 Michael Gonzalez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly researched tale of the story behind one of rap's greatest albums. This thing moves like a parallel realities story - you get to see history meshing, overlapping - James Brown moving the beats of Funkadelic tossing over to Run-DMC and simultaneously walking with Chuck D.

You can see strong hip hop for what it is: the news, and history, life, culture, movement. Socially conscious musicians like PE are a rare breed, and something that's sorely missed.
May 02, 2012 Byron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Several magazine articles about PE, an episode of VH1 Behind the Music and maybe a book or two are compiled into an 80+ page mega Word document, for your convenience. It goes more or less in order by song, and each song serves as a jumping off point to get into a lot of biographical information you don't need about the many sampled artists, presumably via the wiki. Recommended if you'd find such a thing useful.
Sep 02, 2015 Travis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book talks about not only the making of the album and the world of P.E. at the time, but all the pieces of music that went into the album via the relatively new-at-the-time practice of sampling and the world out of which all those pieces of music came, drawing all kinds of interesting parallels between them and making an interesting case for the power of the well-placed sample. A great piece of work.
Michael Trigilio
The best of the 33 1/3rd series (that I've read) so far! The authors erudite grasp of remix and the revolutionary strands found in Public Enemy's production was fresh and crisply expressed. Hip hop is African American folk-music and this book deconstructs "Nation of Millions" as both a reflection of that cultural experience but also as an avant-garde innovation for DJs and MCs alike.
Jun 21, 2010 Noah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible sample by sample breakdown of the seminal Public Enemy album. Weingarten gives a wonderfully thorough history of the tracks that were used in the making of the album, often taking individual words and following them back in time to their source giving an amazing sense of history to the album. If you like the record you owe it to yourself to read this book.
Aug 09, 2010 Nathan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Professor Griff
Shelves: 33-1-3-series
For some reason, it seems that Weingarten spends more of his time discussing the ascension of the sample, with his focus leaning towards the original artists, rather than that being the main topic in his book. He spends little time with Public Enemy, which sort of renders the book and its title as useless, but at least the writing is strong, so he's got that going for him.
May 13, 2012 Pinder rated it really liked it
I loved how it bounced back and forth between the production of It Takes a Nation of Millions and the stories of Isaac Hayes, Funky Drummer, or Wattstax concert samples used. It's nice to finally understand why the album is put together the way it is, the Live in London snippets, and the sometimes odd sequencing.
Richard Ladew
Jun 16, 2013 Richard Ladew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great insight not only into the rise of Public Enemy and the development of the much-lauded production crew of the Bomb Squad, but also a great look back to the dynamism between Bobby Byrd and James Brown and how this too informed the interplay between Chuck and Flav.

I would highly recommend it!
May 04, 2010 Tobias rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2010
The density of information we get here is impressive -- it's not unlike getting a concentrated dose of forty years' worth of musical history, which echoes the dense production of the album in question. And it reads neatly to boot. (Disclaimer: I'm not an entirely objective reviewer here.)
Mar 07, 2012 Shenanitims rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I'm biased because I'm listed in the book, helping supply some of the research material. Still though, out of the entire 33 1/3 line, it's one of the better ones, being focused on the actual music unlike some of the other ones (_Rid of Me_ I'm looking at you...).
Oct 13, 2015 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best I've read yet from the 33 1/3 series. Tackles all the angles of the album, using the history of their samples to tell the modern Public Enemy story while weaving in all of the politics, outrage, and pride that went into making Nation of Millions what it is.
Apr 05, 2016 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, non-fiction
An interesting take on the 33 1/3 series. Weingarten goes deep into the politics of the sample sources used on this album. It made me love one of my favorite albums even more.
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