Local Wire

Brand Nubian

Although its skillful hip-hop style was linked with the Native Tongues movement when it burst out of the New York City suburbs in 1990, Brand Nubian never earned the kind of universal love given to "conscious" contemporaries A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Why? Because all of its militant, Five Percent Nation-inspired talk of poppin' caps in white devils' asses scared the bejesus out of potentially crossover-enabling Caucasian college kids -- even the ones who had given "mad respect" to similar themes coming out of the Public Enemy camp. Factor in Brand Nubian's virulent, indefensible homophobia, and the public outrage far overshadowed any of the group's otherwise laudable messages of black uplift. Tensions were high internally as well -- lead rapper Grand Puba and DJ Alamo quit in 1991, leaving Lord Jamar and Sadat X to continue with limited success until Brand Nubian dissolved in the mid-'90s. The foursome reunited briefly in 1998, and are together again now with a new album, Fire in the Hole, and, despite what that title might suggest, a slightly more peaceful demeanor.
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Michael Alan Goldberg