Saturday, December 3, 2016

Revisiting Brand Nubian's "One For All"


All songs produced by Grand Puba Maxwell and Brand Nubian, except where noted

1. "All For One"

"I hit a beat and swing a note as if my name was David Ruffin/Quick to toast an MC just like an English muffin" -Puba

To begin, I remember my stepdad at the time Wade gave me this cassette, (I want to say in late or mid-late 1992), and when I first heard this classic opener along with the starting verse from Grand Puba, I went crazy as you can imagine. It truly shows the different yet profound personalities of Puba, Sadat X (aka Derek X) and Lord Jamar. I still trip out when I hear Sadat's line, "I'm going on a trip to Mic-a-delphia." In what wouldn't be the last time, they were still enjoying themselves all around, but could still be serious when the time called for it. Such a GREAT, sample driven opener.
*5 out of 5*

"....don't front on my brothers/I take care of them before I take care of others" -Sadat

"All your life you must teach truth/Of the true and living God, not a mystery spook/And when you do that, pursue that goal/Which made the student enroll and only then you'll prosper" -Jamar

*2. "Feels So Good"

This is the first of two bonus tracks on the CD version. You know, you can't help but "feel so good" while listening to this, because Puba ("Now I'm gettin' papes, but stunts gets the vapes/I see it as a joke cause they break when you're broke"), Jamar and Sadat were feeling equally good here, whether they were talking about stunts (for newer fans, "stunts" was a slang term for women), the music or knowledge being power. Even with the "feel good" vibe VERY present here, the song still bangs in its own way.
*5 out of 5*

3. "Concerto In X Minor"
Sadat X

"I'm kinda blessed so I wrote this manifesto for life/Cosigned by the others wit a knife" (*Scratches* "Brand Nubian")

"Now, the civilized man's main goal is to teach/And I try to achieve this with verbal outreach/In my community, and all outlaying counties/Spread the message of good with my Now Rule mighty"

"So keep on this is the dawn of the Capricorn colonel/A rhyme that I kick is stored daily in my journal/Or my diary, when speakin' on the Black man I get fiery!"

Even though this is on a Brand Nubian album, I think this is my favorite solo spot from Sadat and man does he ever catch some serious, fast paced wreck on this one. He touches on everything from "racial issues and tension," spreading a clear message, and when I say fast paced, it really is that. Sadat comes at you with no signs of slowing down and he MORE than keeps up with the beat in the process, and the "Huey Newton verse" is nothing short of amazing. Adding to this "concerto" are the well-timed Last Poets samples courtesy of "Run, Nigger" and "When The Revolution Comes," as well as "Walk Tall" by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet." Awesome, awesome song here.
*5 out of 5*

4. "Ragtime"

"It's my vernacular that's simply spectacular/My bite is in your neck it's the effect of Dracula/Man on a mission, go to school wit low tuition/Can't even keep account of the G's I be kissin!" -Sadat

"Rhymin was a fad in the days of my dad/Now MC's is makin G's and goin for bad" -Sadat

"When it comes to shootin shots I'm a damn good shooter/MC Grand Puba should be worshiped like a Buddha/I boogies to the rhythm, kicks all the flavortism/Damn I gets busy though makin rhymes I gets bizm" -Puba

Loyal reader, this may very well be the BEST form of "ragging" on a record you'll ever hear. Over some dope production with creative sample courtesy of The Gap Band's "Tommy's Groove," Sadat and Jamar come with tight verses, but the man on this one no doubt is Puba. I mean, before "he's outta here in a sec," he drops a NICE verse and just the WAY he BEGINS the verse is so damn smooth, coming with ill lines all the way through:

"So smile, here comes the picture - click!/A humble type brother so don't play me as a vic!" 

Like you need to ask what this song gets.
*5 out of 5*

5. "To The Right"

"Not down wit a frat, no I ain't no Greek/A message from a Black man is what you see!" -Jamar

James Brown's "Funky President" was always a popular sample in hip hop, and with good reason due to how TIGHT it was. I look at this one as the three MCs showing that even though they can kick knowledge with the best of them, they can still be the flyest/freshest MCs at the same time without losing one step, and if you can't rock over any form of "Funky President," you may be in the wrong business.
*5 out of 5*

6. "Dance To My Ministry"
Lord Jamar

"The Alpha and Omega, the Arm-a-Leg-a-Leg-a-Arm-a-Head/And like jam these facts will spread, over the thoughts of the White bread/Cause we've been misled for the longest/Time to rise up and gather our strongest"

The lines above describe this song completely.

Again, this may be on a Brand Nubian album, but this is my favorite solo spot from Lord Jamar. For starters, I've always LOVED the way Earth, Wind & Fire's "Bad Tune" was sampled for this, even in a sped up form. Add in the fact that Jamar references the teachings of the Five Percent Nation, this is a WINNER on all levels, making you dance AND feeding your brain at the same time. 
*5 out of 5*

7. "Drop The Bomb"

"Now the way devil got us is the way the devil want it/He try to hold us back and he overly floss it/This ain't even his land the Indians was here first/The savagery displayed made the red man disperse/I'm out to squash the whitewashed brainwashed line of thought" -Sadat

Mad props for the ILL sampling of Kool & The Gang's "Jungle Jazz." The EFFECTIVE aspects about this production is that not only is it dope, but the BEAT ITSELF sounds like something a bomb being dropped, but in a musical form. Amazing. Simply put, the three man team drops the proverbial bomb on the Yakub, Cave-Man and ignorance crews. Like this entire album, must be heard to be appreciated. Jamar says, "I have no tolerance for Black ignorance" and considering his viewpoints these days, that's very accurate.
*5 out of 5*

8. "Wake Up (Stimulated Dummies Mix)"
Grand Puba

"As I proceed to civilize the uncivilized/Word of wisdom to the groove from the wise (speak on it God)/I guess I'm like the Verbalizer for the fact I'm moving blackwards/This asiatic Black man is a dog spelled backwards"

"It's time to motiviate, build and elevate/Blind deaf and dumb we've gotta change their mindstate"

"This is the plan from the brotherman/From the motherland now it's time to take a stand"

The way Puba kicks the knowledge to the "dumb, deaf and blind" with "Five Percent" philosophy, shows that he can talk about more than just "skins." Quite the informative song here, hence the title, complete with well worked samples courtesy of "Tanga Boo Gonk" by the Nite-Liters and "Cissy Strut" by the Meters. Again, another one that must be heard to be appreciated with many quotable lines across the board.
*5 out of 5*

9. "Step To The Rear"
Grand Puba

"Step to the rear Grand Pu's on arrival"

"Grand Puba, the higher mystic ruler, keep a 40 in the cooler/She don't me, money grip you betta school her/Before I have to play the foul way/And catch a quick short stay at the Holiday (Inn)/Now forecast says I won't be playin soccer wit the dreads/Ballin's my hobby, doin' wonder in the bed/From full-size to king-size to queen-size to high-size/Even bunk beds, I know how to work the lead/If Pu ain't the answer then you must be sick as cancer/Smooth romancer, let it ring I'll probably answer"

"See this is no illusion, the style is too confusing/If you try to bite then you're crusin for a brusin"

I guess it was no accident that this Puba solo spot was sequenced right after "Wake Up," but trust me it's ALL GOOD. Whereas the previous song saw Puba touch on issues of social and political relevance, this appropriately titled classic finds Puba at his slick and smooth best, delivering continuous ill lines over a PHAT sample courtesy of The Mar-Keys' "Plantation Inn." DOPE stuff here and "the way this flows, it is cool."
*5 out of 5*

10. "Slow Down"

This loyal reader is simply classic material, definitely their most well known and successful single. Utter the line, "hey baby, your hips is gettin' big" and a LOT of people will instantly know where it comes from, yes indeed. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians' "What I Am" was utilized BEAUTIFULLY here. It's always been a jam that instantly makes you dance, but in the midst of that, it also comes with a message that to this day may still be lost on some, the ladies in particular: realize how valuable you are because there's no need to be on the fast track, if you will, in terms of sex, money and all the things that can be brought to the table. Jamar's lines, "you've got to flash dollars, to prove her/and when you do she sucks it up like a Hoover" and givin' up the crotch for a fresh Gold watch/markin' off the goods you get, goin' up another notch" spoke VOLUMES in 1990 and they still do in present day 2016. With the music and the message, this song will CLEARLY stand the test of time.
*5 out of 5*

11. "Try To Do Me"
Grand Puba
Produced by D. Hall for Untouchables Productions

This one, with a touch of the "new jack swing" sound, is Puba's joint for the ladies. Although he's "the type to wine & dine and the candlelight," game recognizes game so any attempts to try and play him will fail "because he's not the one." Yes, Puba was at home here.
*5 out of 5*

12. "Who Can Get Busy Like This Man..."
Grand Puba

"Lord have mercy this is lovely, I'll say splendid/Puba's on the stage and I'm glad you all attended"

"I'll slap five to a brother who ain't about no jive/I'll smack ten to a friend who hooked me off wit skins/See I'm the type of brother and I like to have fun/She said 69, I said 68 and I owe you 1"

"See I'm one of the best wit most finesse/I really suggest you do not mess/Or try to test the very best at this"

You can't do nothing but love the way Puba not only gets busy over the samplings of James Brown's "Popcorn With A Feeling," but the way he mixes hip hop and the dancehall style with SUCH ease. Not too many MCs at the time could freak these two styles like Puba could. Such a fly song.
*5 out of 5*

13. "Grand Puba, Positive and L.G."
Grand Puba (Featuring Positive K)

In addition to his collaboration with MC Lyte, "I Ain't Havin' It," this was possibly the best thing that Positive K has been a part of, and being alongside Puba truly brought out the best in him. The back and forth nature of this almost created a sense of friendly competition between the two men. 
*5 out of 5*

*14. "Brand Nubian"

"Brand Nubian function
A junction of three
Collaboration in a style that's like funk"

This song, their debut, actually came out in 1989 and they focus on telling you what "Brand Nubian" means and why they chose it as the group's name. Straight forward, to the point and a dope, sample driven song, notably coming from Cameo's "Rigor Mortis" and Parliament's "Flash Light."
*5 out of 5*

15. "Wake Up (Reprise In The Sunshine)"
Grand Puba

"Nothing's changed, it's just another sequel/The devil's still causing trouble amongst the righteous people"

The same lyrics are present for this reprise, however, the only difference is the production, which features a nice sample courtesy of Roy Ayers' classic "Everybody Loves The Sunshine." I actually prefer this over the "Stimulated Dummies" mix, but both are still equally good.
*5 out of 5*

16. "Dedication" 
Grand Puba

"What more can I say/I wouldn't be here today, if the old school didn't pave the way/Hats off, and I'll never forget/Cause it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be no Rap shit"

The lines above REALLY describe this James Brown sampled closer. courtesy of "Say It Loud- I'm Black and I'm Proud," and it was truly a great way to close the album. Puba gives props to those who paved the way for hip hop to become such a force, listing names such as X-Clan, Public Enemy, Heavy D, BDP, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, LL Cool J, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Linque, as well as DJ Chuck Chillout, the Awesome Two, DJ Kid Capri, DJ Red Alert, De La Soul, Biz Markie, EPMD, the Jungle Brothers, Andre Harrell and even Sean "Puffy" Comes with DJ Alamo (first time mentioning him during this revisit) towards the end. Couldn't have ended this album on a better note.
*5 out of 5*

I know this is still one of my personal favorite albums, but I had a BLAST revisiting this for the blog! 26 years after its initial release, this classic STILL holds up today and it's one INCREDIBLE album. Even though the social and political themes of the day dominated the content, the crew kept up the pace in such an entertaining way without taking things too seriously, plus they switched things up along the way. While Sadat and Jamar contributed memorably to the album, with all due respect, the undisputed star of this show, no doubt, was Grand Puba. With his top notch verses and terrific solo spots, I'm sure the calls for a solo album came immediately after this album dropped. Speaking of which, months after the release of "One For All," Puba would depart from the group with clear aspirations of a solo career, while the remaining three members continued to carry the Brand Nubian banner. 1992 saw the release of the sophomore Brand Nubian album, "In God We Trust," while Puba would drop his debut solo album, "Reel To Reel." The original (4 man) crew wouldn't reunite again until 1998 for "Foundation." Overall, "One For All" is one of hip hop's greatest treasures, moving 350,000 units as of May 2013, and definitely one of the top 5 best albums released in 1990. Puba, Sadat, Jamar and Alamo were on top of their creative games for this album and it has aged SO well. Thumbs WAY, WAY, WAY up for a job WELL done, a STRONG, STRONG recommendation to those who may not have heard this yet (get on this ASAP) and CONTINUOUS thanks to all involved for the making of this CLASSIC. A CLEAR CUT 5 STAR RATING.

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