The second part of this breakdown of Public Enemy's seminal 1988 LP, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, covers from "Night of the Living Baseheads" to "Party For Your Right To Fight."
If you've arrived here from elsewhere, the first part of this piece can be found here.
"Night of the Living Baseheads"
Equal parts investigation and admonishment, "Night of the Living Baseheads" explores the crack problem that plagued African American communities in the late '80s. The social and judicial consequences of the crack epidemic led to a doubling of misguided anti-drug efforts, spurring on a culture of mass incarceration. In order to address these ills, the Bomb Squad make use of an impressive twenty-one seperate samples.
The track, also sampled on "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic" and "Rebel Without A Pause," was sampled by many '90s hip hop acts such as Tupac, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Wu-Tang Clan and The Pharcyde.
Another of The Bomb Squad's impressively frequent self-samples comes at 0:50, when they make use of Chuck D's vocals from "Bring The Noise."
The first vocal grab - "bass!" - is scratched over, and it's not until a whole minute later that the next lyric - "how low can you go?" - also makes an appearance. The anthemic single has since become one of the outfits signature songs.
The quiet vocal sample at 0:50 - "'twas the night..." - is taken from Kurtis Blow's 1979 Christmas single, "Christmas Rappin'." "Christmas Rappin'" was released just three months after The Sugarhill Gang's influential "Rapper's Delight." Both tracks followed the March release of the Fatback Band's "King Tim III (Personality Jock)," often considered to be the first recorded hip hop song.
The eight-beat count at 1:04 is a vocal sample of Disco Four's 1981 single, "Do It, Do It." Despite their name, Disco Four were a five-piece hip hop outfit who released seven singles between '80 and '86. The Harlem-based outfit was helmed by DJ Al Bee.
Emcee Ronnie Robinson was the son of Bobby Robinson, a legendary record store owner and producer. He produced three of the group's 12" singles, including "Do It, Do It."
The instrumental hits that punctuate the Disco Four's count are sampled from "E.U. Freeze," a 1985 single by American funk group E.U.
Also known as Experience Unlimited, the band released seven studio albums throughout their three-decade career. "E.U. Freeze" is taken from the group's third studio album, 1988's Rock Yuh Butt. The group are best known for their hit single "Da Butt," included on the 1988 School Daze OST.
Flavor Flav's enthusiastic "kick it!," which appears at 1:05 on "Night of the Living Baseheads," is sampled from the close of PE's 1987 track, "Terminator X Speaks with his Hands." The sample is actually the final moment on the record, with the vocal sample falling in the last second of runtime.
The second self-sample on this track alone stresses the emphasis that The Bomb Squad put on intricately managed microsamples.
There's two fleeting samples of Run-DMC's "Sucker MC's," a standout track from the group's 1985 debut.
Whilst the track's opening percussion can be heard at 1:07, the most noticeable Run-DMC sample appears at 2:15, featuring Run rapping "ah first come, first serve basis."
The explosive interjection of "rock!" at 1:07 features none other than legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin. The Bomb Squad sample her popular 1971 hit, "Rock Steady," repurposing elements of the titular refrain.
At 1:24, there's a brief vocal sample of "Rappin' Aint No Thing," the first single by early hip hop outfit Boogie Boys. Released in 1981, four years before the group's first LP, the single helped the band land a record deal with Capitol Records.
The sampled lyrics open the original track, appearing as "we are willing / to work your body." The Bomb Squad makes use of the first lyric, inserting another fleeting soundbite.
The echo on the word "way" at 1:32 is taken from Run-DMC's "Rock the House," a track included on their 1985 sophomore LP, King of Rock. The more rock-centric record was produced by Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records, and featured a single writing credit from fellow co-founder and revered producer Rick Rubin.
The voice that temporarily stops the song with "hold it, hold it, listen..." is sourced from The Temptations' "I Can't Get Next To You." The sample is taken from the opening of the track, in which singer Dennis Edwards placates a cheering crowd and begins the song.
"I Can't Get Next To You" was included on the soul vocal group's 1969 LP, Puzzle People, topping the pop charts as the second single from the album.
The drums that accompany Dennis Edwards' show-stopping moment are lifted from Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitars Band's "Scorpio." Initially released in 1971, the Evolution cut was eventually included on Kurtis Blow's 1997 compilation, The History Of Rap, Vol. 1: The Genesis.
"Scorpio" remains Coffey's biggest hit, despite his five-decade career. He performed the hit track on Soul Train in '72, the first white man to do so.
The Bomb Squad make use of another sample from Wattstax, this time borrowing from The Bar-Kays' live rendition of "Son Of Shaft." It appears at 1:51, a clear voice saying "we gon' get on down now." The same track was previously sampled on "Show 'Em Whatcha Got." Though most of the original Bar-Kays died in the same 1967 plane crash that killed Otis Redding, the two surviving members rebuilt the group.
The distinctive sound effect sample that enters at 2:10 is taken from ESG's "UFO." An innovative Bronx-based funk group, the band lay down "UFO" when they had three spare minutes on a master tape. It was included on their debut 1981 EP. The distinctive breakbeat has appeared in tracks by Notorious B.I.G., J Dilla, 2Pac, Big Daddy Kane and MF DOOM.
PE employ yet another fleeting vocal sample, this time sourced from The Masterdon Committee's 1982 single, "Funkbox Party." The first word from the original track, "listen," appears at 2:11.
Much like the previously-sampled Boogie Boys, The Masterdon Committee were an early, Harlem-based hip hop outfit.
The fleeting female voice at 2:20 sounds as though it's saying "yo heard," but the lyrics are actually "Yo, Hurb." The sound bite is lifted from the opening to Salt N Pepa's "My Mic Sounds Nice," a track from their 1986 debut, Hot, Cool & Vicious.
In keeping with the theme of brief samples of old school hip hop tracks, The Bomb Squad borrow from The Fearless Four's "Problems of the World."
The Fearless Four were a hip hop group founded in 1977. They released five singles between '82 and '84, completing their sole, belated debut album ten years later. "Problems of the World," one of the group's most successful singles, was produced by Kurtis Blow.
The Kurtis Blow sample is followed up with another vocal sample about waiting, sourced from clear Bomb Squad favourite, Wattstax.
The sample finds Rufus Thomas engaging with the crowd before launching into "Do The Funky Penguin," one of his biggest hits. The same Wattstax cut was previously sampled on "Don't Believe The Hype."
The unexpected instrumental pivot at 2:46 is scored by David Bowie's "Fame," a single from his 1975 LP, Young Americans. The record was a pivot towards more accessible soul music, one which proved hugely successful for the then-young artist.
The emphatic "brothers and sisters!" that's shouted at 2:51 marks the track's final sample, again lifted from a Wattstax performance. The same track was sampled in PE's "Rebel Without a Pause."
Though the sample is taken from The Soul Children's "I Dont Know What This World Is Coming To," the voice in the sample actually belongs to civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who introduces the band and their song to the crowd.
"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"
The fifth and final single from It Takes A Nation, "Black Steel in the House of Chaos" tells the story of a draft dodger who' imprisoned for his resistance. Chuck D waxes poetic on his refusal to serve the interests of the country's powerbrokers, and Flavor Flav conspires to break him out of prison. Notably slower than many of the intense tracks on the album, "Black Steel in the House of Chaos" makes use of relatively few samples.
The news bulletin soundbite at 0:17 is taken from the opening to The Escorts' "Little Green Apples." That track is a cover of O.C. Smith's 1968 original, which peaked at #2 on the Billboard 100 in 1968.
The Escorts' cover was included on their 1973 LP, All We Need Is Another Chance. The group's debut remains remarkable, as all seven members of the vocal group were incarcerated at New Jersey's Rahway State Prison during the recording.
The vocal that appears at 0:26 - "get in that cell, n---a" - is a sample of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City," a track included on his landmark LP, Innervisions. The song was a hit, despite its then-uncommon depiction of racism.
The track, which tells the story of a young man arrested for a crime he didn't commit, was listed as #105 on Rolling Stones' 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
On "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," The Bomb Squad borrow from "Bring the Noise," the album's third single.
The first sample to appear on "Black Steel" is lifted from 0:33 in "Bring the Noise." It features Chuck D saying "now they got me in a cell," a scratched sample that reappears throughout the track. The second sample - "death row? What a brother know?" - appears at 5:40 on "Black Steel."
"Security of the First World"
The sole sample-free cut on Public Enemy's stacked second album, "Security of the First World" is a fleeting minute-and-a-half instrumental composition. The title is taken from the name given to Public Enemy's greater entourage, who often performed dance routines and practiced intimidation at the group's live shows. They were headed by Professor Griff, who was demoted from his post shortly after the release of the album.
"Rebel Without a Pause"
The first single from It Takes A Nation, "Rebel Without a Pause" set the tone for the then-upcoming record. Featuring an uncommonly fast tempo and scathing political commentary, it typifies the stylistic choices that made the record such a significant release.
The track opens with a familiar spoken word introduction. The Soul Children's "I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To" was previously sampled at the close of "Night of the Living Baseheads," and The Bomb Squad use the same vocal for the opening of "Rebel Without a Pause."
The group's performance opens as such: "brothers and sisters! Brothers and sisters! "I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To," the Soul Children!"
The horns that follow Jackson's announcement are taken from James Brown's famous 1976 single, "Get Up Offa That Thing." Originally included on the album of the same name, "Get Up Offa That Thing" was penned by Brown but credited to his wife and daughters.
None of the six tracks on the LP were credited to Brown himself, whose tax problems with the IRS led him to attribute his work to his family members.
The drums that enter alongside the wailing horns at 0:12 are sourced from yet another familiar James Brown track. The break in "Funky Drummer" has previously appeared on PE tracks "Bring The Noise," "She Watch Channel Zero!?," "Too Much Posse" and "Prophets of Rage (Power Version)."
A key ingredient in Public Enemy's distinctive auditory chaos, the shrieking horn from the open of The J.B.'s "The Grunt" makes yet another appearance. The track, which was previously sampled on "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic" and "Night of the Living Baseheads," is taken from the band's debut album, 1970's Food for Thought.
The Bomb Squad would go on to sample Food for Thought cut "Hot Pants Road" on "Fight the Power."
Despite having been sampled just eight times, the break also appears on Boogie Down Productions' 1988 sophomore LP, By All Means Necessary.
The subtle chanting at 1:19 is the handiwork of Chubb Rock, an East Coast rapper who experienced his greatest success throughout the late '80s and early '90s. The Bomb Squad sample Rock's 1987 single, "Rock 'N Roll Dude," splicing the titular refrain with Terminator X's dextrous scratching.
Another sly vocal sample appears at 3:23, where The Bomb Squad splice yet another fleeting vocal grab amongst Terminator X's scratching.
The sample is taken from Joeski Love's "Pee-Wee's Dance," a 1986 hip hop single. The track takes both its name and its inspiration from Pee Wee Herman himself, and the lyrics outline Joeski's new dance, the 'Pee-Wee.' Love released just one album, 1990's Joe Cool, releasing five singles in the lead up to the LP.
"Prophets of Rage"
Almost three decades after the release of It Takes A Nation, Chuck D would form Prophets of Rage, a supergroup comprised of members of Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave. The outfit was inspired by the tiring and disheartening presidential campaign trail that dominated 2016.
The Bomb Squad sample yet again from PE's 1987 debut, this time borrowing from "Miuzi Weighs a Ton." The vocal sample finds Flavor Flav asking Chuck to "run a power move on 'em," and can be heard at 0:12 on "Prophets of Rage."
"Hum Along and Dance" was originally recorded by the Temptations, though the Jackson 5's version used a similar arrangement to the Rare Earth cover. The album came late in the group's career, amidst complaints regarding their creative control.
The instrumental shifts at 1:21, segueing on Flavor Flav's command. The new percussion is lifted from Funk, Inc.'s "Kool Is Back," the opening track from the outfit's 1971 self-titled debut.
The Bomb Squad elect to layer their drum samples to create more intricate, overwhelming beats, inserting a second drum sample at 1:21. This time, they borrow from the break in James Brown's "Cold Sweat," the title track from his 21st LP. The track was just one of two original compositions on the record, which was largely dedicated to covers.
PE sampled the break again on 1989's "Welcome To The Terrordome."
The looping vocal the enters at 1:21 is taken from another James Brown cut, standalone single "The Payback Mix." Released in 1988, the mix was a revision of Brown's legendary 1973 number one hit, "The Payback."
The remix, released in the UK, incorporated a swathe of samples, borrowing from Brown's catalogue and the catalogues of his associates. The track itself hasn't been sampled since 1990.
The final sample on "Prophets of Rage" comes from a 1986 record. The Bomb Squad borrow elements from Original Concept's "Pump that Bass," an irreverent party track included on the group's one and only LP, Straight from the Basement of Kooley High. Though the album was released the same year as It Takes A Nation..., the single predated the release by two whole years. The largely lyric-free LP was a showing of production prowess.
"Party for Your Right to Fight"
With a title that takes inspiration from Beastie Boys' 1986 hit single, "Party for Your Right to Fight" is yet another incendiary call to arms from Chuck D & Co. Boasting a Malcolm X sample and some suitably political lyrics, "Party for Your Right to Fight" is a powerful closing statement that recaps the groups chaotic 57 minute treatise.
The track opens with a pitched up sample of Funkadelic's "Butt-To-Buttresuscitation," a track included on the group's 1976 LP, Tales of Kidd Funkadelic. The album was haphazardly thrown together as the outfit changed labels, arriving two years before their classic magnum opus, One Nation Under A Groove.
The warbling vocal that bursts forth at 0:10 is courtesy of legendary soul singer Sly Stone. The sample is sourced from Sly and the Family Stone's 1968 b-side, "Sing a Simple Song." The track was released alongside hit single "Everyday People," though it quickly became one of the group's signature tracks, and has since been sampled prolifically.
The Flavor Flav interjections that enter at 0:12 - "yeah, y'all!" - are lifted from the group's debut LP, a source of many samples throughout their sophomore record. The most sampled of these '87 tracks is "Terminator X Speaks with his Hands," the DJ-heavy album closer featuring ad-libs from Flav.
The recurring "you got it" sample is courtesy of Bobby Byrd, a funk pioneer and longtime James Brown peer. The sample, which first appears at 0:55, is taken from Byrd's "I Know You Got Soul," a 1971 single featuring The J.B.'s and produced by Brown himself.
At 1:11, The Bomb Squad sample what is arguably one of hip hop's most popular refrains. It's taken from Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right," on which the title of this track is clearly based. Though originally written as a satire of party anthems, "Fight for Your Right" quickly became an earnest party song in its own right. Whilst the group would reach their creative peak with 1989's Paul's Boutique, "Fight for Your Right" remains their defining hit.
Though the collective recorded a live album documenting the '76-'77 P-Funk Earth Tour, this sample is taken from a rendition of "Do That Stuff" from The Mothership Connection, a live album recorded in '76 and released ten years later.
The PE essential "yeah, boy!" is yet another sly self-sample, with The Bomb Squad lifting Flavor Flav's famed ad-lib from the opening to "Bring the Noise."
"Party For Your Right To Fight" is the seventh and final track to sample of "Bring The Noise" on It Takes A Nation, though the much-sampled hit would reappear on the group's third LP, 1990's Fear Of A Black Planet.
In keeping with the group's onetime-incendiary Afrocentric political ideals, the final track incorporates excerpts of a radio interview with Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X. The sample appears from 1:22 onward.
The interview, broadcast on June 25, 1964, was conducted in Boston. It was later sampled by PE on their 1991 single, "Can't Truss It." The interview can be streamed and downloaded through archive.org.
If you've made it this far, you're already well versed in James Brown. The most sampled artist of all time makes another appearance at 2:14, when The Bomb Squad sample the titular refrain from "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved." The group have sampled the track seven times, a number in keeping with their clear admiration for Brown's versatile sounds.
The final sample on It Takes A Nation is courtesy of late legend Bob Marley. The sample, which finds Marley asking that you "don't give up the fight," appears at 2:37 on "Party for Your Right to Fight." It's sourced from "Get Up, Stand Up," a track included on The Wailers' 1973 LP, Burnin'.
PE Number One...
It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back went Gold in just three months. It peaked at #42 on the Billboard 200, spending 51 weeks on the chart. The album was, by every possible metric, a defining success for the group. It wasn't long before they found themselves in turmoil: after making anti-Semitic statements during an interview, Professor Griff, the head of Security of the First World, was fired from the group. Russell Simmons issued a statement announcing the group's indefinite disbanding, though it was only a month and a half before Chuck D issued his own statement that rehired Griff and reformed the outfit.
Public Enemy released their third album, Fear of a Black Planet, in 1990. lt continued their unrestrained exploration of the issues facing African American communities, doubling down on undue criticism of their message whilst broaching topics such as white supremacy and institutionalised racism. The next year brought Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black, the group's fourth LP. It would be the last of their efforts to receive sweeping critical acclaim, ending one of hip hop's most influential hot streaks.
The group would find continued success over the next two decades, their albums receiving generally positive reviews even as their place in hip hop became more and more tenuous. Though their style has fallen out of favour within the culture, Public Enemy still serve a valuable purpose: their music preaches rebellion and change, inciting the kind of upheaval that needn't be buoyed to a trend. Though they continue to work within a niche, Public Enemy are - and will always be - one of a handful of outfits that helped write the book on political activism in hip hop.