Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Brand Nubian

The Five Percent Nation of Islam was a popular inspiration for numerous thinking-man's rap groups during the early '90s, and Brand Nubian was arguably the finest of the more militant crop. Although they were strongly related to the Native Tongues posse in style and sound, they weren't technically members, and were less reserved about spotlighting their politics and religion. Their outspokenness led to controversy, on an even larger scale than similarly minded groups like the X-Clan or Poor Righteous Teachers, in part because Brand Nubian's sheer musicality made them so listenable regardless of what their messages were. The hoopla surrounding their aggressive Afrocentrism sometimes overshadowed the playful and positive sides of their work, as well as the undeniable virtuosity of lead MC Grand Puba's rhymes — all showcased to best effect on their highly acclaimed debut, One for All.Brand Nubian was formed in 1989 in the New York suburb of New Rochelle. Grand Puba (born Maxwell Dixon) had previously recorded with a group called Masters of Ceremony, and was joined by Sadat X (born Derek Murphy, originally dubbed Derek X), Lord Jamar (born Lorenzo DeChalus), and DJ Alamo (Murphy's cousin). The group signed with Elektra and released their debut album, All for One, in 1990. Most reviews were glowing, but the stronger rhetoric on the album — especially the track "Drop the Bomb" — drew fire from some quarters, including some white Elektra employees reluctant to promote what they saw as reverse racism. Ultimately, the uproar didn't really hurt Brand Nubian's career, but neither did it produce a wider hit with pop or R&B audiences, despite the high regard in which the singles "All for One," "Slow Down," and "Wake Up" are held. A far more serious blow was Grand Puba's departure from the group in late 1991, owing to tensions that had arisen over his handling the lion's share of the rapping. Not only did Brand Nubian lose their clear focal point and chief producer, they also lost DJ Alamo, who elected to continue working with Puba.Puba released his solo debut, Reel to Reel, in 1992; meanwhile, Lord Jamar and Sadat X regrouped with DJ Sincere (born Terrence Perry) and issued In God We Trust in 1993. It sold fairly well, just missing the Top Ten on the R&B chart, and the single "Punks Jump up to Get Beat Down" was something of a hit, though it also drew fire for its anti-gay slurs. In Puba's absence, the pro-Islam rhetoric grew stronger, with more explicit support for the controversial Minister Louis Farrakhan. By the time of 1994's Everything Is Everything, they'd gotten downright dogmatic, and critics who'd previously defended the group now found them difficult to stomach, both lyrically and musically.In the wake of the icy reception afforded Everything Is Everything, the remaining members of Brand Nubian drifted apart. Sadat X reunited with Grand Puba for "Play It Cool," a track on the latter's second solo album; Sadat also released his solo debut, Wild Cowboys, in 1996, and subsequently guested on records by a new wave of underground hip-hoppers. Lord Jamar, meanwhile, moved into production, and also landed a recurring role on HBO's prison drama Oz. In 1998, with a new alternative rap movement gaining prominence, the original four members of Brand Nubian reunited for the Arista album Foundation, which received highly positive reviews. Grand Puba and Sadat X both subsequently returned to their solo careers, but they returned with Jamar and Alamo for 2004's Fire in the Hole.
Brand Nubian never sold as many albums as the many West Coast rappers burning up the charts in the early '90s, but the New York group commanded great respect in East Coast rap circles. In black neighborhoods of New York and Philadelphia, Nubian's debut album, One for All, was actually a bigger seller than many of the platinum gangsta rap releases outselling it on a national level. Influenced by De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, Nubian favored an abstract rapping style, and Eastern rap fans were drawn to the complexity of jams like "Dance to My Ministry," "Ragtime," and "All for One." Grand Puba, Lord Jamar, and Sadat X had a lot of technique, which was what hip-hoppers favored in the East. On the whole, Nubian's Nation of Islam rhetoric isn't as overbearing as some of the recordings that other Five Percenters were delivering at the time. The CD is a bit uneven, but on the whole is likable and exhilarating.
When pre-album single "Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down" was issued — along with its violence-laced video — it was clear that Brand Nubian would not be the same minus Grand Puba. It was a safe bet that In God We Trust wouldn't have attempted any new jack swing crossovers or tie-dyed imagery. Though the makeover is drastic, it is convincing, with Lord Jamar and Sadat X stepping up with some of the era's fiercest, most intense rhymes, a higher percentage of which referenced the likes of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, Marcus Garvey, and self-defense by any means necessary. Multiple, indefensible homophobic taunts and the silly "Steal Ya 'Ho" aside (did they really think the use of the two words was so necessary?), In God We Trust is nearly faultless, packed with rumbling acoustic basslines, Jeep-rattling breakbeats, and rhymes written and delivered with a great deal of hunger and an equal amount of self-assuredness — as if to say, "No, Brand Nubian was never Grand Puba and a couple sidekicks." The Diamond D-produced "Punks" outshines everything else, but the group more than holds its own as a self-contained production team. Had a high-profile beat maker been responsible for "The Godz...," "Pass the Gat," or "Brand Nubian Rock the Set," they'd certainly be present in his or her highlight reel.


Brand Nubian cover a wide variety of styles and issues on this album. Their message is positive, but they come down hard on stereotypes and blacks killing other blacks. Sampling from rock and jazz alike, the group's scratchy rhythms are a good complement to the lyrics.


Foundation, the first album since Brand Nubian's 1990 debut that featured all four original members, is an incredible return to form. The rhymes by Grand Puba, Sadat X and Lord Jamar are as striking as they were on the group's breakout, and the focus on message tracks is a refreshing turn from the rap world's played-out tales of thug life. "Don't Let It Go to Your Head" is a cautionary tale for arrogant one-hit rappers, while "Probable Cause" is a scathing attack on the notorious tactics of the New Jersey State Police and "I'm Black and I'm Proud" is an enjoyable roots epic. There are plenty of simple feel-good tracks as well, although those omnipresent Wu-Tang strings appear on several songs (just as on every other major rap album released in 1998). The group ably manage to sidestep another late-'90s rap cliché, enlisting a different outside producer for each track. Though Foundation is no different — featuring DJ Premiere, Lord Finesse and Chris "CL" Liggio, among others — most of the best tracks were helmed by Nubian members Grand Puba or DJ Alamo. Of the few NYC rap acts still left a decade on from rap's golden age, Brand Nubian sounded the freshest.


Six years since Foundation, Brand Nubian settle on Babygrande — home of Canibus and Jean Grae — and return with Fire in the Hole. Lord Jamar and DJ Alamo remain on production duties, as ever, while Grand Puba chips in on one track. While plenty of MCs who thrived in the early '90s have attempted with great desperation to remain relevant, each member of this crew has remained true to himself, consistently refining the skills without hopelessly retracing old steps. Despite all the changes mainstream rap has gone through during the past several years, Brand Nubian have remained well outside of it all — and they still do here, 15 years on, with a fifth album that will sit proudly next to the previous four. Few will ever refer to this as a classic, though even fewer will ever think of this as a poor showing. Graying veterans of the golden age and younger hip-hop junkies should be pleased to hear that the group is still active and in such good form.

Label..........: Traffic
Source.........: CDDA
Genre..........: Rap
Size...........: 48.1 MB
Rip Date.......: 08-16-2007
Release Date...: 08-21-2007
Quality........: LAME 3.97 V2

01. Brand Nubian - Intro (Produced by Grand Puba) 00:48
02. Brand Nubian - Seen Enough (Produced by Lord Jamar) 04:03
03. Brand Nubian - Girls, Girls, Girls (Produced by Alamo) 04:02
04. Brand Nubian - One Time (Original Version) (Produced by Alamo) 04:22
05. Brand Nubian - Scientists Of Sound (Produced by Grand Puba & Lord Finesse) 04:50
06. Brand Nubian - Time's Runnin' Out (Original Version) (Produced by Brand Nubian) 04:14
07. Brand Nubian - Brand Nu Hustle (Produced by Grand Puba) 03:40
08. Brand Nubian - Once Again (Produced by Lord Jamar) 03:23
09. Brand Nubian - Rockin' It (Produced by Grand Puba) 03:41
10. Brand Nubian - I Wanna Hear It (Produced by Grand Puba) 03:34
11. Brand Nubian - A Child Is Born (Original Version) (Produced by Vance Wright) 04:19
12. Brand Nubian - Right Here (Produced by Grand Puba) 04:24
13. Brand Nubian - Enjoy Yourself (Produced by Grand Puba) 04:08
14. Brand Nubian - Go Hard (Produced by Lord Jamar) 03:06
15. Brand Nubian - Somebody Told A Lie (Produced by Lord Jamar) 04:14

6 comments: said...

Great stuff like always, thanks!!!

monsterislandczar said...

hey cheers dude - great post - Brand Nubian one of my favorite clicks - was it not worth posting any of their solo stuff up here as well or /

Oh yeah one other thing, I know it kinda didn't fit with the rest of the album but I always loved "Steal Ya Ho" - one of those tracks I just couldn't help singing despite the chorus lol ! Black Star Liner is a Classick !

learningquranonline said...

i loved Brand Nubian - Fire in the Hole nice stuff

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Anonymous said...

do you know how many time has passes since the last time that I hear a new about this group? well since the generic viagra was put in the market.

Anonymous said...

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