– 29 years ago, It Takes a Nation of a Million to Hold Us Back, arguably the most powerful and influential rap album of all time was released by Public Enemy.

All of the independent artists out there know how hard it is to get people to follow along with your movement. What’s even harder is staying authentic in the face of criticism. But, Public Enemy was able to do all of the above with It Takes a Nation of a Million to Hold Us Back … and then some.

Public Enemy Releases
It Takes a Nation of a Million to Hold Us Back

By 1988, Public Enemy had gained a bit of notoriety, but hadn’t quite yet captivated the nation the way they would in years to come. Their debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, sold only 300,000 copies but was acclaimed amongst true hip hop aficionados. However, the release of It Takes a Nation of a Million to Hold Us Back immediately inflated Public Enemy’s stock. 

It Takes a Nation of a Million to Hold Us Back peaked at #1 on Billboard’s “Top Black Albums” chart and #42 on the “Top Pop Albums” chart where it remained for 49 weeks. Within the first month of the album’s release, Public Enemy had already sold 500,000 copies. It only took until August 1989 for the album to go platinum. As of 2010, It Takes a Nation has sold an additional 722,000 units.

There are an endless reasons why this album is so highly valued. These could include Chuck D’s powerful delivery and sociapolicital commentary as well as the project’s incredibly innovative production. It Takes a Nation is an extremely experimental project packed with an assortment of found sounds ranging from James Brown to sirens to live performances.

We could go on all day about the greatness of this album and the subsequent greatness that it influenced. To further put this album’s incredible quality into perspective I’ll simply mention that it received an absolutely perfect rating from AllMusic, The Guardian, Pitchfork, NME, The Rolling Stone Album Guide, Q, Spin Select Alternative Guide, Select, Christgau’s Record Guide, and Encyclopedia of Popular Music. In 2003, the album was also ranked at #48 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. This made it the highest ranked hip-hop album on the list and the only one to break the top 100.

The most insane part of all of this: All material was recorded in 30 days, the album was complete in 6 weeks, and the total budget was a mere $25,000. Drops Mic.

Written by DJ Robinson