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Foundation

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Album Review

Foundation, the first album since Brand Nubian's 1990 debut to feature 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 manages 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 N.Y.C. rap acts still left a decade on from rap's golden age, Brand Nubian sound the freshest. [Foundation was issued in a "clean" version with all profanity removed.]

Biography

Formed: 1989 in New Rochelle, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

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...
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Foundation, Brand Nubian
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