Lord Jamar The 5% Album

Brand Nubian celebrated their prime at the height of hip hop’s confused black righteous period of the early 1990s, an era overrun by red, black, and green medallions and disconnected African imagery. While few crews made it out of the overblown trend with their message intact, Brand Nubian integrant Lord Jamar has never swayed, even in his subsequent trips through TV land via shows like Oz. Here the spiritually guided MC returns to the mic to lay out his five-percent beliefs with his debut solo venture, The 5% Album. Thick, grinding soul-laden beats run from cover to cover on the album, as Jamar breaks down his Islam-based message amid politically charged recorded speeches and sporadic critiques of hip-hop commercialism. Fellow "five-percenters” Raekwon, RZA, GZA and Grand Puba all turn up to lend their respective wisdoms, each proving — more than anything else — that they can still lay claim to the mic. While you’d expect an album this thematically homogeneous to wear thin by disc’s end, it never does, refusing to be preachy and delivering enough banging musical firepower to distract once you’ve finally heard enough. (Babygrande)