The iconic Source Magazine, known for their mic rating system was always a topic of conversation in the 90’s. Only 15 albums were initially awarded the coveted 5 mics. Through the years, they upgraded some original ratings, but those don’t really count to me. One of those original 15 albums Brand Nubian’s, One For All was released 26 years ago on Dec 4th, 1990.
1990 was such an iconic year in hip hop. Gangsta and conscious hip hop was starting to flood the masses. Imagine a mix of Tribe, De La, PE and Cube, then enters Brand Nubian. Grand Puba, Derek X (who is now Sadat X), Lord Jamar and DJ Alamo. Lets revisit the Gods debut and see how it sounds today.
All For One
The show starts off with a bang. “All For One”, features the trio dropping jewels over a laid back instrumental. You realize from the beginning that they guys weren’t gangsters; they wanted you to go sit somewhere and think. Derek X rhymes:
Read my book, it contains many pieces of verses
I took the time to delete all the curses
So moms reach deep in your purses
And buy me take me home and try me and do me well
Lord Jamar states:
You seek and search but still you can’t find
You’re weak and it hurts to be deaf, dumb and blind
A supreme mind will take you out of your paralysis
I grip the mic so tight I get callouses
And your analysis is that the Lord
Whips rhymes into shape with a mic cord
I do it good ’cause I’m a positive black man
Eating up suckers as if I was PacMan
Brand Nubian “All For One”
Feel So Good
“Feels So Good” is one of the songs that put a smile on my grandmother’s face. She hated rap at this point, but recognized the War sample. The beginning of “Concerto in X Minor” featured a hilarious Ed Sullivan impersonation. Derek X gets a solo cut as he discussed the injustices in the community. Knowledge sounded so smooth.
Lord Jamar had a solo on ‘Dance to My Ministry”. He discussed Five Percent teaching over a sick instrumental. “Drop the Bomb” is a track where they drop the bomb “on the caveman crew” aka the white man. The title is a violent threat, but a verbal call out for racial injustices. Derek X powerfully rhymes:
Let’s go, steppin’ in stride as I move with pride
Blind deaf and dumb the God Haji’s here to guide
Follow me now children
For wisdom, I always seem to give a conniption
Unlike a pimp, I’m more like an Egyptian
Straight to the Kingdom is where I bring them
And I school ’em, Now Rule is where I rule ’em
He Allah, God Islam, now act
But let me slow down ’cause Eighty-Fives can’t get with that
“Brand Nubian” is their eponymous debut song released in 1989 and was a perfect introduction to the group. They dropped their knowledge over the fast paced, funky Cameo sample. The is a piece of video game history as it landed on a radio station for the best video game ever created, Grand Theft Auto; San Andreas
Remember the Edie Brickell smash in 1988? It was plastered all over MTV. Young bucks, that channel actually used to play music videos all day. “What I Am” was inescapable regardless of what genre of music you were into. And you have to admit, it was catchy as hell.
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – What I Am
So why am I posting videos of folk rock from the 80’s? Well I completely fell in love with their second single, “Slow Down”, sampled from Edie Brickell hit. It is probably the single the most people think of when it comes to Brand Nubian. All three MC’s have potent verses directed toward the ladies that are out of control. The brothers are trying to get them to avoid living the fast life. I googled the word classic and this video popped up.
Brand Nubian – Slow Down
Remember Positive K, from the ever popular, hella annoying, “I Gotta Man”? He joined the party on the most creative song title ever, “Grand Puba, Positive and L.G.” No lessons here, just straight rhyming. The 2 MC’s trade verses over a simple yet enjoyable backdrop. Being a big Honeymooners fan, my favorite line is:
Grip the mic til my hands get calloused
And ill tell you like Ralph Kramden told Alice
Grand Puba also showcased a reggae flavor toward the end of this song. He showcased this same flavor throughout the entire dancehall influenced “Who Can Get Busy Like This Man”. This was a good way to mix up the album. “Try To Do Me” was another attempt to add a different flavor. Producer Dave Hall got behind the board and created something the ladies would gravitate toward. He went on to produce for some of the biggest names such as Madonna, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey. This was his first credited production and had a distinct new jack swing to it. Now this may not flow with the rest of the album, but I gotta admit, I used the rewind button in my Sony yellow walkman a few times to this song.
Puba has first solo joint on “Wake Up”. He encourages Black Men to become more conscious. Puba has the listener questioning everything from history to the church. He expresses frustration that his mother gives so much to the church, but barely has anything to support the family…. a central theme in Five Percent teaching. He even go on to discuss feelings of anger that stems from the belief that people outside of the community keeps them oppressed due to drugs and misinformation. Puba spits powerful lyrics like
Well here some food for thought, many fought for the sport
And the black man still come up short
Its time to motivate, build and elevate
Blind, deaf and dumb, we gotta change their mindstate
So I dip dip diver, civilize a 85er
I can go on and on discussing The Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths, but I want you to keep reading.
There are 2 versions on the album: The Stimulated Dummies version and the video version, The Reprise in the Sunshine version. Same lyrics, the Roy Ayers sample on the latter is something special. The video was banned from MTV for awhile. It features a black man wearing whiteface. The preacher in the video replaced this depiction. I know I use this word 143 times a week, but this is the epitome of classic hip hop.
Brand Nubian – Wake Up
We wrap things up with “Dedication” as Grand Puba shouts out his favorite MCs, then proceeds to give us some final rhymes. He finishes with some more shout outs
“What more can I say, I wouldn’t be here today,
if the old school didn’t pave the way”
If that line sounds familiar, it’s because the immortal Tupac sampled that line on the hook of his song “Old School” on the powerful Me Against The World album.
Tupac – Old School
Some people may call this album racist. I call it three talented MC’s giving us positive, uplifting and conscious lyrics over jazz loops and hard beats. So do you think The Source got it right by awarding this with 5 mics!
Brand Nubian – One For All