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Brand Nubian Biography

Last updated: 03/22/2001 03:20:26 AM

When Brand Nubian busted out in 1990 with the abum One for All, they represented an exciting new direction for hip-hop. Afrocentric, conscious, philosophical, and musically influenced as much by jazz as by funk and R&B, the group introduced the talents of Grand Puba, who went on to release two solo albums and produce other artists. Brand Nubian, meanwhile, released another album, In God We Trust, which featured the classic "Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down." But since 1993 or so, the marketplace has heard little from this innovative group. Until now.

With the recent release of Foundation, the original members of Brand Nubian?Grand Puba, Lord Jamar, Sadat X, and DJ Alamo?return in classic form. Now signed directly to Arista Records, a label whose rap product has primarily been acquired through joint ventures or distributed labels, Brand Nubian is set for a renewed presence in the market. The group came to the attention of Arista A&R exec Drew Dixon after they performed a track on the Money Talks soundtrack.

No doubt, there was a plan to break up," notes Puba of the days when members went their separate ways. "But it wasn't really no major thing. Plus the flavor changes [in hip-hop] made it perfect for us to come back; like nature, everything changes course." Puba says members decided to come back together in 1996, and began recording a number of tracks. When they got their Arista deal in 1997, recording began in earnest.

While the sound of rap and how it is accepted in the maintsream has altered somewhat since Brand Nubian's first incarnation, the group says that its return to the marketplace fills a void for conscious lyrics that has not been satisfied in the current run of West Coast hardcore and East Coast materialistic party rhymes. "There's always been a balance of positive and negative in hip-hop, but there's not too much positive shit out right now," explains Puba. "The market got bigger, and it's a lot harder to tell the truth on certain things and become a big star when you're opposing the people that's paying you. But you still have to take that chance if you truly believe in what you believe in."

And while the group is aware of the other elements of hip-hop, just as when they first came together, they are only intent on doing their own thing. With production by Grand Puba, DJ Premier, Lord Finesse, Alamo, Buck Wild, and Diamond D, among others, the group's tracks are just as head-noddin' and thought provoking as the lyrics. First single "Don't Let It Go to Your Head," which bites its melody and chorus from the Gamble & Huff-produced Jean Carne tune of the same name, cautions hip-hop new jacks against believing their own hype with a rhyme flow that is articulate, witty, and right on target. The track "Probable Cause" breaks it down about the injustices young black men suffer at the hands of the police, while "I'm Black And I'm Proud" keeps it on the positive tip. But the Nubians can also party with style, as they do on "Let's Dance," a straight uptempo groove featuring Busta Rhymes, and the vocals and melody of Rebbie Jackson's "Centipede."

According to Jeff House, VP of Street Promotion and Marketing for Arista, the label serviced a 12-inch, "The Return" b/w "Brand Nubian" for a five-week run starting August 19, then shipped a promo CD of the new single "Don't Let It Go to Your Head" on September 4. The video for the track was aired on BET Sept. 25, and House says that play for the track is coming in from major stations like

WGCI-Chicago and KKBT-Los Angeles. "It's a very radio friendly, R&B-ish?but still street at the same time?record, and we're looking to do very well with it," says House.

"It felt like it hasn't been that long," confides Lord Jamar, "As soon as we got back into the studio, we picked up right where we left off."

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