During the golden age of Hip-Hop, Brand Nubian was the rare breed of deft lyrical emcees who could offer 5-percenter knowledge to the masses, awe audiences with witty wordplay and use samples and melodies that had women on the dance floor.
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So what happened to them?
They are the subject of Sunday night’s Unsung episode on TV One, where New Rochelle natives DJ Alamo, Sadat X, Grand Puba and Lord Jamar talk about what brought the group out of the spotlight in the ‘90s through breakups and reunions.
Puba, with a great musical ear, was the consummate leader of the group, born into the Black Nationalist movement where in the projects he, his family and friends studied their history every day in classes in the rec room. Sadat X grew up influenced by his basketball playing father, Bill “Pickles” Murphy, to play basketball at Shaw University. Jamar, who grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, would become a deejay and a Five Percenter by the time he was a teenager.
Singles like “Wake Up,” “Slow Down,” “All for One,” “Brand Nubian,” “Love Me or Leave Me Alone,” “Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down,” and “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head,” sealed their place in Hip-Hop history.
Provided to YouTube by Warner Music Group All for One · Brand Nubian One For All ℗ 1990 Elektra Entertainment, A Division of Warner Communications Inc. for the United States and WEA International Inc. for the world outside of the United States.
Lord Jamar talked to The Shadow League ahead of Sunday night’s episode of Unsung.
The Shadow League: Talk about deejaying as young as 12 years old.
Lord Jamar: My mom had a lot of 45’s when I was young. When Hip Hop came out, I was watching like, ‘okay they use two turntables and a mixer.’ We didn’t have all of that, we just had two record players. We took the amplifier and would turn the volume down on one and volume up on the other. Then I was making pause tapes and I was proficient at that. It sounded seamless.
I was deejaying in the crib, then I started doing like house parties. I was like 13 years old. Then I started doing high school parties in New Rochelle and Westchester and Mount Vernon.
Album "In God We Trust" 1993
TSL: At one time you were a Jehovah’s Witness before you became a Five Percenter.
LJ: There are certain things that they both abstain from as far as not saying the pledge of allegiance or celebrating Christmas and all these holidays. So that discipline was helpful, but at the same time it allowed me to see other contradictions and things that didn’t make sense.
I got introduced to the fact that the real Jesus was black by a Hebrew Israelite and something in me was like, ‘I knew it!’ And then maybe a year later I met a member of the Nation of Islam and Five Percenter guy and I went to the mosque with him.
I was a street dude and I didn’t want to give up smoking weed and messing with broads, and I didn’t want to put on a suit and sell bean pies, but I liked the knowledge. I ended up going with the Five Percenters.
My name, Lord is the master and Jamar, you take the numbers and it all adds up to 7, which is God.
TSL: Who are your Hip Hop influences?
LJ: Of all of the greatest Hip Hop artists through time -- Kool Moe Dee, Grand Master Caz and Melle Melle. DLB from the Fearless Four, which people may forget who was a helluva lyricist. LL Cool J, Run DMC, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy and KRS One. Whoever was doing Hip Hop at the highest level, I was influenced by. But the initial three was Kool Moe Dee, Grand Master Caz and Melle Melle.
Brand Nubian's official music video for 'Don't Let It Go To Your Head'. Click to listen to Brand Nubian on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/BNSpot?IQid=2YH As featured on Foundation. Click to buy the track or album via iTunes: http://smarturl.it/BNFiTunes?IQid=2YH Google Play: http://smarturl.it/BNTYHPlay?IQid=2YH Amazon: http://smarturl.it/BDFAm?IQid=2YH More great Classic Hip-Hop videos here: http://smarturl.it/ClassicHipHop?IQid=2YH Subscribe to Brand Nubian on YouTube: http://smarturl.it/BNSub?IQid=2YH --------- Lyrics: "Don't let it go your head, no!"
TSL: Talk about being dropped from Arista.
LJ: We were out on the road and basically when our shit is about to come out, Clive Davis got fired and they hire LA Reid. He turned Arista into the new LaFace. It wasn’t anything personal against us. Run DMC got dropped, a bunch of people got dropped.
TSL: What was the core of the beef with Puba?
LJ: He’s an alpha male and I’m an alpha male. He was older than us and looking at us like his little young niggas. Once we signed that contract, that was like graduation day. I’m not your son anymore, we are now equals. We split the money equally. We looked up to him in New Rochelle. He was famous in New Rochelle when I first ever messed with him, it was like, ‘Yooo, Grand Puba just called me.’ He needed a deejay and he called me on the phone.
© 2006 WMG Wake Up (Video)
TSL: How did you meet Sadat?
LJ: I met Sadat at a cipher at Southside library where black people would hang out by the library and people would have boxes playing music, smoking weed and getting porgies.
X opens his mouth and his voice sounded as deep as it does now at 15. He was nice, but he didn’t look like he was nice. He looked like a nerd to me. I was blown away. I walked away saying that’s one of the only kids in New Rochelle that I even respect
TSL: How did you get into acting?
LJ: Acting, I mentally put myself there. Ever since I was young I thought it was something cool I could do. I went to the premiere for the Sopranos. I started hanging out with Dean Winters, who played O’Reilly on the HBO show, Oz. He asked me did I ever want to be on the show.
I told him about the Five Percent Nation, he never heard of that. I was like how you gonna have a jail and there’s no Five Percenters? They ended up putting it on the show.
From the album In God We Trust (1992) Produced by Diamond D.
TSL: I saw you on VLAD TV talking about how white rappers are guests in the house of Hip Hop. Do you still feel that way?
LJ: They were not here for Hip Hop’s inception. It was not a music that was even for them particularly. This was for young black alpha males in the inner city. It became universal. We have a universal attraction.