Comprised of Grand Puba Maxwell, Derek X (Sadat), Lord Jamar and DJ Alamo (who was also Sadat’s cousin, if I’m not mistaken), Brand Nubian emerged in 1990 as one of the finest groups to ever represent the Five Percent Nation of Islam. Although, (arguably) front-man Grand Puba had scored a small dose of success as a member of Masters Of Ceremony, it wasn’t until the release of the foursome’s critically acclaimed debut “One For All” on Elektra records, that folks really started to pay full attention to (as Treach of Naughty would later say) “one of the fiercest emcees on the mic”. The initial feedback from the album was mostly positive, even if songs like “Drop The Bomb” caused friction in some circles (mostly whites) due to what many called “reverse racism”. Matter of fact, I can also remember reading in The Source that some white Elektra employees where soo offended by “One For All”, even going as far as stopping the promotion of this album completely.
Although the album is also considered a necessity to many East Coast headz, thanks much in part to the inclusion of classic cuts such as “Slow Down”, “Step To The Rear” and the title cut, “One For All” was also one of the most heavily bootlegged albums to ever grace the streets of New York. So obviously, the amount of units that “One For All” actually moved is quite obsolete. Personally, “One For All” is one of my all-time favorites both lyrically and production-wise. With the majority of the album’s production handled by the group and the Stimulated Dummies (SD50s), tracks like the “One For All” (which was also an “accident” of sorts, the unintentional “skip” from one of Puba’s Girfriend’s James Brown records served as the backdrop) and the Eddie Brickell-sampled “Slow Down” were truly innovative records…and still are. Lyrically, Brand Nubian (Puba, Sadat and Lord J) came off as a more militant and complex De La or Jungle Brothers. Brand Nubian didn’t quite beat you over the head with their 5% rhetoric like the X-Clan did, Puba would actually spit 5% knowledge in one verse and in the next 16 bars, rap about rocking Girbauds and Tommy Hill while smoking a blunt and drinking a 40 oz, which is one of the main reasons I feel that East Coasters loved his style so very much. But of course, everyone knows that Brand Nubian also took a VERY serious blow when Puba and departed the crew (with DJ Alamo in tow, nonetheless) to release his solo outing “Reel To Reel” in 1992, leaving Lord Jamar and Sadat X to regroup with DJ Sincere for the release of 1993′s “In God We Trust”.
While I feel that a few tracks could have been excluded from “One For All”-namely, “Try To Do Me”, even for a 13 year-old kid like myself this album was extremely likable and mind-blowing at the time of it’s release. Hell, I was just as saddened that Puba left Brand Nubian as a was at the moment I learned of EPMD’s “break-up”. If you don’t own this album in your collection, you need to slap yourself silly for “One For All” is a must-have for anyone who says they love “Hip Hop”!
When we talk of Special Ed, the one fact that many cats seem to overlook is that Ed was only 16(!) when he released what is now regarded as one of the finest records of all-time, “I Got It Made” under the tutelage of one of Hip Hop’s originators on the boards, “Hitman” Howie Tee. In 1989 Special Ed scored a major smash with his debut “Youngest In Charge” which also included three heavy-hitting records, the aforementioned “I Got It Made”, the album’s opener “Taxing” and the crazy addictive, banjo-boasting “I’m The Magnificent”. And at the time of the release of “Legal” in 1990, Special Ed was regarded as one of the true front-runners in Hip Hop emerging from the East.
With albums loaded with punchlines and metaphors Ed delivered one entertaining verse after another, from the release of his debut until 1995′s largely-unnoticed “Revelations”. And while not the most lyrically complex emcee to ever bless the microphone, Ed won with his undeniable charm and confident swag. A much better album than his debut, in my humble opinion, Ed’s sophomore effort “Legal” was also fully produced by Howie Tee. A short and sweet album (think “Illmatic”), Howie’s production on “Legal” served as the Yin to Ed’s Yang (Pause), allowing Ed’s increasing verbal skills to take center stage on this follow-up. The album’s crowning moments came via the first single “The Mission” where Special Ed a clever storytelling ability that couldn’t be found on “Youngest In Charge”, which carried more of a battle rhyming, brag and boast aim than “Legal”. Also, when cats speak on the “greatest posse cuts” of all-time, rarely is Ed’s “5 Men And A Mic” included in that conversation, this track also served as my introduction to Little Shawn who would drop a decent album (“The Voice In The Mirror”) nearly two years later. The funny thing about Little Shawn is that he will probably be remembered more for something he didn’t do (Pac was on the way to record a track with Little Shawn in New York when he was shot on his way up to the studio, which played a huge role in the origin of the East-West beef), more than anything he ever did do.
Although “Legal” did have it’s limitations-the obligatory “See It Ya” would have been better if left on the cutting room floor-Ed’s youthful exuberance and expression were more than enough to push this album over the top.
Seriously, I could leave a very good impression for the reader of Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth’s “Funky Technician” with three simple names: DJ Premier, Diamond D & Showbiz, and not to be overlooked Lord Finesse, and you will be sold on this album without giving it a thorough listen. Yes, it’s a beatheadz dream come true! ”Funky Technician” was the end result of an album that featured some of the best producers from the East, if not Hip Hop as a whole, throw in a hot DJ as an added bonus and you have an overlooked, underrated CLASSIC! Released on the now-defunct, but legendary Wild Pitch records in 1990, “Funky Technician” found Lord Finesse showing and proving his steady rhyming abilities over some of the hottest backdrops in underground Hip Hop.
While Lord Finesse was no Rakim or Big Daddy Kane (pre-”Taste Of Chocolate”, of course), he was a master at stringing some of the most imaginative lines together for some hot sh*t. Honestly, I’ve always found fellow D.I.T.C. member A.G. and Finesse’s styles to be oddly similar, and speaking of A.G., dude dropped one of his all-time best verses on the Showbiz-produced “Back To Back Rhyming”. While Preemo’s production career may have turned out to be more fruitful than that of Diamond D, on this album it is Diamond and not Premier who churned out the finest gem with his beat for the title cut.
Although many folks seem to forget that Finesse was an emcee before he displayed the production wizardry that made tracks like Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts” so unforgettable, this album was chalked full of ill one liners and battle rhymes. Even if, in retrospect, this album was a little too heavy for my taste (today) on James Brown samples, “Funky Technician” will forever be remembered as the one album that which legendary East Coast beat-makers formed like Voltron to deliver one of Hip Hop’s most “slept-on” CLASSICS.