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


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Product Details

  • Series: 33 1/3
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; 1 edition (April 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826429130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826429131
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Christopher R. Weingarten is a professional freelancer living inBrooklyn, whose work can currently be seen in the Village Voice,RollingStone.com, Spin, Revolver, The Guardian, eMusic and much more.His speech, Twitter And The Death Of Music Criticism atthe 140 Characters Conference in New York became a viral sensation in2009. He reviewed 1000 of 2009's new records over Twitter on hisaccount, @1000TimesYes. He is the shadowy figure behind hipsterpuppies.tumblr.com and is also the author of its corresponding book, upcoming via NAL/Penguin.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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This book is a great example of what all the books in the 33 1/3 series should be.
C. Koch
The book provides a very wide historical context for the samples that shape the core of Nation of Millions.
Jonathan Harris
Having read several 33 1/3 books, I can say that this is definitely a highlight of the series.
Zach Gozlan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ivan Rott on April 30, 2010
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.
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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).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Koch on June 15, 2010
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.
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