Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back vs. Jungle Brothers’ Straight Out The Jungle. Which is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Public Enemy and Jungle Brothers added greatly to the legend of 1988. Both New York outfits found ways to connect Hip-Hop’s past with what would become its future. It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and Straight Out The Jungle have some similar messages, but vastly different sonic textures. While one is a platinum subject of documentaries and books, the other is a lesser-profiled, harder to find indie. On this stage, they are equals, until voting decides a winner (click one then click “vote”).
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It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back by Public Enemy
Public Enemy’s sophomore album is an intersection of substance and style at the highest possible level. A year-and-a-half removed from their stellar debut, Yo! Bum Rush The Show, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, and Professor Griff raised the stakes through an audio explosion. “Bring The Noise” ushered in the album’s barrage of hard-hitting lyrics. They outed inequalities, decried sample critics, stripped the glamour off drug use, and put a militia behind the movement. Chuck D found his greatest stride, not rapping as much as rhythmically proclaiming powerful verses into MC scripture. Flav played the consummate supporter, taking the role of hype-man to the top of class. Terminator X’s (and Johnny Juice’s) skills made the turntable more akin to the hard rock guitar, in its dazzling, head-banging display. Although It Takes A Nation… yielded monumental singles in “Rebel Without A Pause” and “Don’t Believe The Hype,” it contains few—if any—weak links. The album cut almost does not exist in the case of this Def Jam sophomore. Songs like “Louder Than A Bomb” and “Prophets Of Rage” resonate through the times, alongside the hits. P.E. made one of Rap’s premier end-to-end discs.
With the issue-focused Chuck D, The Bomb Squad elevated their own craft. The stacked samples of Yo! Bum Rush The Show were intensified on the follow-up. Elements were sliced and chopped extra thin, with careful additions to the whole song. The lyrics of this album were heavy lifting for the mind, just as its sonic backbone was a workout for the ears. The raw energy of Heavy Metal was translated to Hip-Hop. Chuck’s Anthrax shout-out was not only telling, but a perfect explanation of the kind of energy and attitude that P.E. shared. While Public Enemy dismissed the Grammy snubs, they were clearly showing how album-like the genre had become. Just minutes under an hour, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back was social empowerment, and at times, propaganda. It was a complete mind-shaping Hip-Hop package that exercised freedom of speech in a way entirely different from Ice-T, N.W.A., and 2 Live Crew. However, P.E.’s message was felt across the Rap landscape, with the most organized group at the time. Twenty-seven years later, every contemporary artist seeks the kind of response to art and substance as this landmark LP.
Album Number: 2
Released: June 28, 1988
Label: Def Jam/Columbia Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #42 (certified gold, September 1988; certified platinum, August 1989)
Song Guests: Harry Allen, Fab 5 Freddy, Erica Johnson, Oris Josphe, Johnny Juice
Song Producers: (self), The Bomb Squad (Chuck D, Hank Shocklee, Eric “Vietnam” Sadler), Bill Stephney, Carl Ryder
Straight Out The Jungle by The Jungle Brothers
Historically, the Jungle Brothers may be the least profiled members of the Native Tongues movement. However, the New York City trio is a keystone to the diaspora. Straight Out The Jungle is the first (and one of the finest) release in the chronology. Afrika Baby Bam (an homage to Afrika Bambaataa), Mike Gee, and Sammy B made an album under the tutelage of Kool DJ Red Alert that seamlessly combined Hip-Hop’s pioneering days with its infinite future. With structured rhyme routines, Afrika and Mike kicked lyrics about sex, status, and burgeoning Rap careers. Content-wise, the Warlock Records LP is simple, but colorful. Songs like hit “Because I Got It Like That” freaked the funk with superior style, while “On The Run” made a catch-me-if-you-can theme about touring.
Big on the safari/jungle themes, the (other) J.B.’s were gifted in returning to Hip-Hop’s motherland. With Red at the helm, the group involved the very records that defined the 1970s parties. This time, the vinyl was being cleverly sampled into party-jams, complemented with deft rhymes. The “jungle” was the drum-driven birthplace for Hip-Hop, as Straight Out The Jungle proposed a sound and style that actualized the forefathers’ vision. Hardly a simple throwback, “I’ll House You” set not only the stage for Hip-House, but is a record that bleeds strongly into many of 2015’s club-tinged Rap hits. The slang, the style, and all the pithy phrases from Mike and Bam would be deeply influential to the 1990s underground Hip-Hop movement to come, on both coasts. Perhaps due to label or lacking out-sized personalities as compared to De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, this album lacks a plaque, and misses many of its due accolades. However, to those who watched the Tongues in real-time, this colorful, never stagnant LP is at the heart of Rap civilization. The jungle really is a land of competition, harmony, and so much beyond the naked eye and ear. That’s a fitting diagram for this breakthrough release.
Album Number: 1
Released: November 8, 1988
Label: Idler/Warlock Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): n/a
Song Guests: Q-Tip, DJ Red Alert
Song Producers: (self), Todd Terry, Tony D., The Grand Wizard Oswald, Pam Hall
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.