Night of the Living Baseheads

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"Night of the Living Baseheads"
Single by Public Enemy
from the album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
A-side "Night of the Living Baseheads"
B-side "Cold Lampin' with Flavor"
"Terminator X to the Edge of Panic"
Released October 11, 1988
Format 12" single
Recorded 1987
Genre Political hip hop
Length 3:14
Label Def Jam Recordings
Writer(s) C.D. Ridenhour
W.J. Drayton
Producer(s) The Bomb Squad
Public Enemy singles chronology
"Don't Believe the Hype"
"Night of the Living Baseheads"
(October 4, 1988)
"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"

"Night of the Living Baseheads" is the third single released by hip hop group Public Enemy, from their critically acclaimed album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. The lyrics deal with the effects of crack cocaine on African-Americans during the 1980s crack epidemic, referring to the slang for cocaine "base". The song reached #62 on the U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks.

The song uses more samples than any other song on the album, a total of 20 (including the sample of Chuck D saying "Bass!" at the start of the song "Bring the Noise"). The chorus of the song that asks "How low can you go?", refers to a person degrading himself/herself, rather than a dance. The title is a reference to the film Night of the Living Dead, equating people addicted to crack cocaine with zombies.

The group Digital AssassinsD did a cover of this song entitled "Return of the Living Bassheads (Somethin' Really Bad)." This cover was featured on video games such as Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2 and BMX XXX. The group Insane Clown Posse also did a cover of this track that was entitled "Night of the Living Bassheads". This cover is to be released for The Mighty Death Pop!'s bonus cover album Smothered, Covered & Chunked.

Music video[edit]

The song had a unique, six-minute video presented as a television channel with news anchors and commercials. The music video features MC Lyte as a reporter and Flavor Flav appears as co-anchor of a fictional T.V. news program, PETV. The video shows footage of the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights, New York City (After Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam in 1964, he founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). The weekly meetings of the OAAU were held at the Audubon Ballroom and it was at one of those meetings, on February 21, 1965, that Malcolm X was assassinated.) During the video, MC Lyte searches for 'baseheads' and finds them on Wall Street where executives are caught sniffing cocaine, pointing out that drug use is viewed differently among black and white communities. In another scene, Chuck D is captured by the racist, anti-rap group the "Brown Bags". In the middle of the music video, a T.V. commercial is shown of a "beeper tie" which allows drug dealers to appear respectable, and in another scene a reporter investigates a crack house, showing what crack addiction does to families.


Chart (1988) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks 62


  • Excerpt of speech by Khalid Abdul Muhammad (intro)
  • "UFO" by ESG (sirens)[1]
  • "Fame" by David Bowie
  • "The Grunt" by The J.B.'s (horn glissando)
  • "Scorpio" by Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band (drums)
  • "Son of Shaft" by Bar-Kays
  • "Funky Man" by Kool & The Gang
  • "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy (Vocals: "Bass! How low can you go?")
  • "Christmas Rappin'" by Kurtis Blow (Vocals: "Twas the night"/"Hold it now")
  • "Do the Funky Penguin" by Rufus Thomas (drums)
  • "Rock Steady" by Aretha Franklin (Vocals: "Rock!")
  • "I Can't Get Next to You" by The Temptations (Piano hook/Vocals: "Everybody hold it, listen")
  • "Pick Up the Pieces" by Average White Band
  • "You Can Make It If You Try" by Sly & the Family Stone (drums)
  • "I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To" by The Soul Children (Vocals: "Brothers and sisters")
  • "Here We Go" (Live at the Funhouse) by Run-DMC
  • "Sucker M.C.'s (Krush-Groove 1)" by Run-DMC (Drums/Vocals: "Years ago","First come, first serve basis")
  • "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" by James Brown
  • "Soul Power Pt. I" by James Brown
  • "Rappin' Ain't No Thang" by The Boogie Boys featuring Kool Ski, Kid Delight & Disco Dave (Vocals: "We are willing")
  • "Funkbox Party" by The Masterdon Committee (Vocals: "Listen")
  • "Do It, Do It" by Disco Four (Vocals: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6")
  • "My Mic Sounds Nice" by Salt-n-Pepa (Vocals: "Yo, Herb")


External links[edit]