Brand Nubian Fire In The Hole

Brand Nubian Fire In The Hole
They may not have a high profile or multi-platinum plaques to their name but Brand Nubian’s influence on hip-hop culture cannot be dismissed lightly. Their 1990 album One For All is a certified classic that welded their stridently militant political views to beguilingly dextrous flows. It also revealed Grand Puba’s fixation, for better or worse, with designer label Tommy Hilfiger, ushering preppy gear into hip-hop culture making him a pioneering forerunner to Andre and Kanye. Much changed over the intervening years, most notably Puba’s exit for a solo career while the group’s music took on a harder edge. Puba returned for 1998’s criminally underrated Foundation and Fire In The Hole, their first outing since then picks up where they left off. Puba, Lord Jamar and Sadat X deliver laid-back narrative flows eschewing flamboyant style for a palpable community-oriented concern throughout. While too many hip-hop veterans overextend themselves coming back trying to catch the latest trend, Brand Nubian stick to familiar territory yet deliver it in a more subtle and understated manner than ever, tempered by the soul-looped production of Lord Jamar. While there are some miscues, this formula largely makes for a sobering listen. The trio detail urban strife and violence on "Just Don’t Learn” and demonstrate their concern for youth on the immediately appealing yet borderline-preachy "Young Son.” Appropriately ending with "Soldier’s Story,” which suggests the critical war is actually occurring in domestic urban danger zones, Brand Nubian’s aim is to give voice to forgotten struggles.

How do you see yourselves now, given that you have maintained your ground from when you first came out? Lord Jamar: We’re coming at it like OG status, I guess. Like the dudes in the hood that are a little bit older, that you look up to but they’re not so old that you can’t hang out with them. I think that’s what we kinda represent in a way right now. We’re kinda saying the same stuff in a different way and we’ve lived a lot since we first came out and we have a deeper insight into the world what’s going on.

How do you think you can get message out, given the changes in the marketplace? Grand Puba: I think what comes around goes around. It’s all based on what the climate is in society. You have the terrorist situation, 9/11, the president on some shady shit. It’s heating back up. When we first did it, think about it, Bush was the president right?

Do you see political content in hip-hop coming back? Grand Puba: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We still have knowledge out there. Now you got Kanye West. And that one line Jadakiss said: "Why did Bush knock down the towers?” That right there was more powerful than five records. One line. So I see consciousness coming back to the game. (Babygrande)