Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and over 2 million other books are available for Amazon Kindle . Learn more
FREE Delivery in the UK on orders with at least £10 of books.
Only 3 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon.
Gift-wrap available.
Public Enemy's It Takes a... has been added to your Basket
+ £2.80 UK delivery
Used: Good | Details
Sold by owlsmart_usa
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Good clean copy with no missing pages might be an ex library copy; may contain marginal notes and or highlighting
Trade in your item
Get a £0.52
Gift Card.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (33 1/3) Paperback – 10 Jun 2010

See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
£4.45 £4.45
£9.99 FREE Delivery in the UK on orders with at least £10 of books. Only 3 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (33 1/3) + The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique (33 1/3)
Price For Both: £18.98

Buy the selected items together

Trade In this Item for up to £0.52
Trade in Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (33 1/3) for an Amazon Gift Card of up to £0.52, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Product details

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description

About the Author

Christopher R. Weingarten is editor-in-chief of the music site Paper Thin Walls. He is the former new music editor of CMJ New Music Monthly, and has written for many other publications including Spin, the Village Voice, and The Source.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
Search inside this book:

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

There are no customer reviews yet on
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Digging deep into hip hop's roots and the poli-rap of Public Enemy 1 May 2010
By Ivan Rott - Published on
Format: Paperback
Ideal for readers who are suckers for palm-sized books (like me), the 33 1/3 series is written for music addicts, by music addicts. The latest volume in this great series - 71st total, 5th amongst titles covering hip hop LPs - takes an all-encompassing look at Public Enemy's second (and best) album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Author Christopher R. Weingarten (Rolling Stone, Village Voice, Idolator, Spin ...) weaves a web of history-rich anecdotes and music trivia as convoluted as the sample-heavy sonics of the album itself. With flair, Weingarten wraps up all of the "noise" into a thoroughly researched, enthrallingly informative read.

Hip hop in the mid-to-late `80s wasn't the commercialized custerfluck it is today. Rap artists were battling for supremacy in an era when a DJ or music critic's opinion was the gospel, the end-all be-all to critical acclaim or absolute ostracization. Even after dropping their debut album on the biggest rap label on the planet, Public Enemy still wasn't turning heads like they'd expected. Critics panned them and DJs - most notably Mr. Magic, which Weingarten touches on - refused to play their records. It was at that point at which PE front man Chuck D, upon hearing Eric B. & Rakim's "I Know You Got Soul", knew he had to double up for the group's sophomore effort - or "turn it up", if you will.

Weingarten portrays the group's creative efforts and direction, fused by Chuck D's hard as nails steadfastness and the Shocklee brothers' unique sonic structuring, accompanied of course by Flavor Flav's spunk and the militant imagery of the S1Ws and Professor Griff. In describing the Bomb Squad's chaotic soundscapes - a stark contrast to Marley Marl's fine-pointed production - Weingarten cleverly compares these varied approaches to the dissimilarities between Stax and Motown (as well as Def Jam co-founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons). With a keen appreciation for the samples that made this album what it was, the author delves deep into the life and music of The Godfather - the late, great James Brown. Weingarten also covers oft-overlooked narratives of Bootsy Collins as a JB, Bobby Byrd as the original hype man, and Clyde Stubblefield, responsible for arguably the most sampled break of all time - "Funky Drummer".

Providing a great history lesson that branches out into the realms of funk and soul as much as it does to rap, Weingarten offers a commendable balance of both research and unique insight. For instance, he compares the bizarre occurrence of organ transplant recipients adopting the traits of their donors(!) to the art of sampling and the resurrection of old sounds - reanimating the past, taking on a new life. Similarly intriguing, the author dissects Chuck D's infamous line "bass, how low can you go" and its lyrical significance, being re-flipped nine tracks later on Nation's "Night of the Living Baseheads": Turning "bass" to "base", and giving "how low can you go" a whole new meaning.

Much like the untold number of samples fit tightly into It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Weingarten's contribution to the 33 1/3 series amasses a great wealth of musical history into an item you can fit in your pocket. Articulately and efficiently capturing the frenzied history (and pre-history) of Public Enemy's second LP into a mini-anthology of sorts, Christopher R. Weingarten has given us a reason once more to believe the hype about one of rap's greatest and most influential albums.

>> Originally posted on Hip Hop Is Read
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Amazing book for any true-school hip-hop head or anyone who appreciates the art of sampling 7 Feb. 2011
By Jason Seagraves - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The best 33 and 1/3 books make you realize not only why an album is so great, but that it is better than you thought. I grew up listening to Public Enemy. I remember when "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" was a "world premiere" video on MTV. I was a fourth-grader; a whiteboy from the sticks who would soon be reading books by and about Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Huey Newton, Marcus Garvey, and Eldridge Cleaver -- thanks to Chuck D and Public Enemy. P.E. was definitely my favorite group up through 1994, and even after the big miss with Muse-Sick-N-Hour-Mess-Age, I still cited them as my favorite group "of all time," with Nation of Millions #2 only to Illmatic. But somehow, over the past five years or so, P.E. and this album had fallen in my estimation. I was asked to compile a list of top 25 hip-hop albums of all time last year, and I ranked Nation of Millions... #25. Well, after reading this excellent book by Christopher Weingarten, it's back at #2 and may even be knocking on the door of #1 -- and for reasons I never would have suspected.

Growing up, I was always much more concerned with lyricism than production. I remember I used to consider hip-hop beats "background music" for the rhyming. My favorite emcees as a kid were Rakim, KRS-ONE, and Chuck D. Rapping was about being smart, first and foremost, and it wasn't until The Chronic that I really started paying attention to beats. Now, I make beats (or at least try to) on the MPC 2000, and I've been doing that an and off again for 15 years. I collect records and always listen for samples, but this is a comparatively recent development, if you consider that the bulk of the formative years of my hip-hop education came B.C. (Before Chronic). Thus, while I have a keen appreciation for what guys like Pete Rock, J Dilla, DJ Premier, and even Kanye West do and have done with their samplers, I never really gave a whole lot of thought to the Bomb Squad. Chris Weingarten's book is actually much more about Nation's production than Chuck D's lyrical content -- and that really surprised me.

As a beat-digger myself, I loved Weingarten's approach. He takes each of the major samples used by Public Enemy, and traces not only why and how they were used, but also the conditions under which the original recordings were made! The amount of care and research required to do this is staggering, and it is no surprise that at 138 pages (prior to Works Cited), this is the longest of the five hip-hop books in the 33 and 1/3 series. For example, when looking at P.E.'s usage of James Brown's "The Grunt," Weingarten goes back to an evening when the J.B.'s were in mutiny, refusing to take the stage for the Godfather of Soul unless he paid them more. Refusing to bow down to his band, Brown tracked down Bootsy Collins and his Pacesetters and sent his private jet to pick them up and play the show! From here, we get "The Grunt." Each of the major samples used are traced in similar fashion, and I especially liked the sections on Isaac Hayes and Rufus Thomas (and the whole Wattstax thing, which I knew nothing about).

The denseness of information caused me to read this book over three or four days, whereas I finished most of the other 33 and 1/3 books in a day or two, but the entire time I was reading it, I kept relaying stories to my wife and telling her, "This is like the greatest thing I've ever read!" All the while, I was listening to Nation of Millions, and I haven't stopped. It is once again in heavy rotation, and now -- for the first time ever -- I truly appreciate its greatness. You know how P.E. had that chaotic, rock 'n roll intensity to their music? That's because they didn't sequence their beats -- they'd all stand around at samplers, tapping them in, jamming like a live band! Four samplers (or more), with even Flavor Flav responsible for the snares! These are the kind of details that I love, and they're missing from all of the other 33 and 1/3 books (save Paul's Boutique) that I've read. I've enjoyed all the hip-hop books in the series, and Paul's Boutique gives it a run for its money, but this is the best. Stop what you're doing and buy this book NOW!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Series at Its Best 16 Jun. 2010
By C. Koch - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a great example of what all the books in the 33 1/3 series should be. It offers a concise explanation of how the album was constructed, why, and why it all matters.
The story of It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back has been told before. If you are writing a term paper, check out these sources too: Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies, and Don't Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin': The Authorized Story of Public Enemy.

Having already read the above, I was hesitant to purchase this book. However, not only did the author offer additional information, he uses a clever literary device. Weingarten argues that the back story of each of the samples that makes the music of It Takes a Nation are essentially important to the new songs that were created. I think going into an explanation would only detract from a new reader's enjoyment, but (in my opinion) it is executed perfectly.

Before reading this book, I could explain why this album is a favorite. But after reading it, I understand so much better! It is a sum of many things I love. James Brown. Funkadelic. Stax Records. And, most of all, sampling: taking something old and making something new with it. For me, it was a big "Ah-Ha!" moment. Weingarten explained to me something that had been swirling around in my head for years. Thanks. When I was finished, I let it sit for a week. Then I picked it up and read it again.

Even if my analysis sounds a little over the top , if you are interested in Public Enemy, enjoy music history, or love learning about sample sources, you won't be disappointed with this book.
Fascinating and Meandering Exploration 21 April 2011
By TMFHitman - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book contains a lot of background on the making of the record - PE's transition from "Yo! Bum Rush the Show," their relationship with Russell Simmons, the Beastie Boys, Rick Rubin and Run DMC, how the beats were built, Chuck D's involvement in the production, so on and so forth. The information is all interesting, but what sets the book apart is the same thing that set the record apart: the samples.

Christopher Weingarten starts pulling on strings to see where they lead, and you get the sense that he could have gone on for another hundred pages with no problem.

If the records sampled were played in your house growing up, I'm not sure how riveting this book would be for you. If you were raised on Neil Diamond and Joan Baez (or some similarly James-Brown-less palette)and Nation of Millions sounded like a screed from another planet when you heard it, then every page of this book is a revelation and a story well-told. Weingarten pulls out individual samples and tells the stories of those records, often tying them to PE, explaining how they were chosen.

The writing is crisp and the writer has a good eye for interesting detail, regularly stopping to tell a good story only tangentially related to Nation of Millions.

After reading the book, I listened to the album, and it's almost new to me. An immensely enjoyable trip overall.
A Great Book About A Great Album 5 Sept. 2013
By Jonathan Harris - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books in the 33 1/3 series. The book provides a very wide historical context for the samples that shape the core of Nation of Millions. I was very familiar with this record, listening to it frequently for over 20 years, but after reading the book I heard it in a fresh way. Many of the recorded voices and musical samples popped out with new found significance. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in PE or the history of Hip Hop.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know