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The Very Best of Brand Nubian

Brand Nubian

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Album Review

Politically controversial in their time, Brand Nubian doesn't sound like the dangerous, Afrocentric militants they were originally made out to be in some quarters. Maybe it's because their jazzy, post-Native Tongues music is so ingratiating; maybe it's because Grand Puba has such a playful, easygoing presence on the mic; maybe it's just that, in the new millennium, politics are no longer the way rap groups ruffle feathers. Whatever the case, Rhino's The Very Best of Brand Nubian is an essential summation of the uncompromisingly pro-black, often very positive group's career. Grand Puba, clearly their most inventive lyricist, departed after their excellent debut, One for All, and was definitely missed on subsequent albums. So instead of trying to balance the picture, the compilation wisely leans heavily on One for All, from whence come seven of the 16 tracks (eight if you count the Pete Rock remix of "Slow Down"). We also get two Grand Puba solo singles and one track from the group's latter-day reunion with Puba, "Don't Let It Go to Your Head." That leaves three tracks from In God We Trust, just one from the coolly received Everything Is Everything, and another hard-to-find remix (of "Punks Jump up to Get Beat Down"). One could make the case that "Step to the Rear" and "Who Can Get Busy Like This Man" should also have made the cut from the debut, instead of the two remixes, but then again, there had to be a decent reason to buy this comp, even if all the post-One for All material included here is worth rescuing. As for the group's politics, the "white devil" fixation on "Drop the Bomb" and "Wake Up (Reprise in the Sunshine)" can sound paranoid to non-believers. But really, it shouldn't detract from the group's numerous strengths, which make The Very Best of Brand Nubian an extremely high-quality listen.

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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The Very Best of Brand Nubian, Brand Nubian
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