Longevity is hard to achieve in the rap game. It’s even harder to achieve longevity when a group is involved, almost impossible really. If you think of all the classic groups in hip-hop you’d be hard pressed to find 5 still together. Brand Nubian stands as the exception to that rule. Though each group member is always on his individual grind, Brand Nubian still remains as one of hip-hop’s most legendary and long lasting groups. After dropping a solid album on indie imprint Babygrande Records in 2004, Brand Nubian has proven that even if they’re not “brand nu” anymore they can still sell records and rock a crowd. Recently, Lord Jamar took the time out to talk about Brand Nubian’s past, present, and future.
Pedro Hernandez (PH): After a long break y’all released “Fire in the Hole” on Babygrande Records, and I was wondering what motivated y’all to get back together and record an album?
Lord Jamar: What motivates us to come back? I mean, you know, we never really leave, like we’re always do shows and things like that, always working. But you know, it’s just the love of the music, that’s what we do.
PH: Babygrande Records is probably one of the top independent labels right now, how did y’all end up hooking up with them?
Lord Jamar: Uhhh, one of my brothers knew a guy that worked at Koch who knew my man Chuck at Babygrande and he set up a meeting, and that’s how that happened.
PH: When is the next Brand Nubian album coming out? Do y’all have a set date?
“I’m probably coming out with my solo album by the end of the year.”
Lord Jamar: Nah, I don’t have a set date for that, yet. I’m probably coming out with my solo album by the end of the year.
PH: So your solo album is coming out at the end of the year, what about the other group members?
Lord Jamar: I know dudes is working on some stuff, they’re definitely working on some stuff I just don’t know when it’s coming out.
PH: I know y’all have been around for a long time, since around ’89 or before then, and y’all have had the chance to drop albums at different times during Hip-Hop. How has it felt each time you dropped an album, from the early 1990’s when you dropped your first album, to the late 1990’s with “Foundation,” to today with “Fire In The Hole?”
Lord Jamar: Yeah, it seems like something different is always going on whenever we come out. I don’t know, it just depends on the time that we dropped it, you know we dropped albums amidst the east coast/ west coast beef, nah mean. I don’t know we just try to focus on who we are man, focus on what we do and not get too caught up on what’s going on around us.
PH: Is it a challenge for y’all to try and keep the Brand Nubian sound and message fresh and relevant, especially with the changing times?
“… the challenge is just staying who you are, not getting caught up.”
Lord Jamar: I guess a little bit, but you know… I guess the challenge is just staying who you are, not getting caught up. Not trying to do what somebody else is doing, just doing what you gotta do.
PH: Brand Nubian has always been known for, I guess militant rap, you know the pro-Black messages and strong political and religious views, and at times you’ve been criticized by mainstream media and others for some of that, how does the group deal with that?
Lord Jamar: How do we deal with that? I guess, you know, you just gotta be secure with yourself, nah mean. Know that what your doing is right, you know, not… don’t even worry about what other people might say, nah mean?
PH: Did y’all ever feel y’all were being unfairly criticized at times?
“You know critics feel like they have their own license, you know, whatever they want they just do it.”
Lord Jamar: Oh definitely! Definitely. There’s some people who even criticized us for made up stuff, you know like GLAAD. Coming at as saying that “Punks Jump Up and Get Beat Down” was against homosexuals and it wasn’t. You know critics feel like they have their own license, you know, whatever they want they just do it.
PH: I assume you keep up with newer stuff, so lately there’s been the emergence of groups like dead prez and Jedi Mind Tricks who, if anything, are a lot more militant and express their views a lot more directly than y’all did back in your time. Do you feel that it’s more accepted to be pro-Black, pro-Muslim today, that it’s more popular?
Lord Jamar: Well those, you know, dead prez, those are my babies right there, I discovered that group and brought them to the game. So you know their like an extension of Brand Nubian, they kind of do what we do. Everything goes in cycles man, you know, we were here in Hip-Hop before, with the phat gold chains and the four fingered rings and all that stuff. Now there’s new music, a new style, nah mean, cars are crazy now. But you know, it’s just a cycle, we’ve been here doing our thing, we do what we do.
PH: I know Brand Nubian has influence a lot of acts, a lot of the younger cats coming out today, but what were your influences coming, which rappers did y’all idolize?
“I think I was influenced by all the great emcees, nah mean. From Spoonie Gee to Melle Mel…”
Lord Jamar: Umm, you know, I was around hip-hop long enough to be exposed to all the great ones, nah mean. So I think I was influenced by all the great emcees, nah mean. From Spoonie Gee to Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, Rakim, Kool G. Rap, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, Run DMC, you know the dopest. Whoever was the dopest that’s who I listened to coming up.
PH: I know you guys are set to perform at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival coming up and I was wondering how did it feel to be veterans in the game, you know having been here for 15-16 years, and to still be rocking shows with what are considered the top younger acts in the game, like Little Brother and Medina Green?
Lord Jamar: Yeah, it’s crazy you know, cause we’ve been here long enough to have seen a lot of groups come and go. It’s great, you know, we’ve seen a lot of people come and go, and you know we never went gold or platinum, but we’ve maintained a certain respect and love in the industry.
PH: Speaking about gold and platinum, is that a goal for Brand Nubian to one day go gold or platinum, or are y’all happy being a legendary group that, though you may not sell a lot, you are highly respected and revered?
Lord Jamar: I think every rapper would love to go gold or platinum. But you know, if it happens it happens, we gonna do our own thing. We’re not gonna go gold or platinum by following some trend or doing what’s hot at the time. We’re gonna keep doing what we’re doing and if at the end that happens that’s great, nah mean.
PH: Getting back to the concert, is there a favorite song y’all like to perform or a most requested song people like to hear?
“I enjoy performing all songs, nah mean. I don’t have one favorite.”
Lord Jamar: You know I enjoy performing all songs, nah mean. I don’t have one favorite. All I can say is, you know, you’re not gonna get short-changed, we’re going to give you what you wanna hear, you know. We got a whole lotta classics, we can’t get through em all, but you know, it’s a good show.
PH: Alright, sounds good, getting back to the newer albums and solo projects, are there any new up and coming emcees or producers that y’all would like to work with?
Lord Jamar: Umm, you know I can’t really think of any off top. Whatever’s hot, whatever mixes with what Brand Nubian is trying to do at the moment.
PH: Outside of rap or hip-hop, what do y’all do, what do y’all like to do, do y’all ball, you know things like that?
Lord Jamar: You know, X (Sadat X) plays ball up in Harlem, he coaches a team up there. You know, me, my family and other than that just working in the studio, things like that.
PH: I know you said you broke dead prez, any other new groups you’re trying to bring in or upcoming projects?
Lord Jamar: Umm, not really, not right now. If anything comes up, you know, I’ll work on it. But right now just working on my solo album coming out at the end of this year.
PH: To wrap things up, your group has always had something to say about politics and the social situations going on, so how do you feel about the current situation? With the president and things like that? I think it just came out that Bush and Kerry both had poor grades at school, so how do you feel about all that?
“… as far as the political situation right now, Bush is just trying to dominate the world…”
Lord Jamar: Ummm, it sounds like you asked me a combination of questions there all at once (laughter). Well, you know, as far as the political situation right now, Bush is just trying to dominate the world, you know, going into all these countries to get oil, going into Iraq, Afghanistan, and I think now he even wants to go into Iran. I can’t approve of all that, you know. And as far as the grades and the president, in the times we’re living it’s not stressed, academics are not stressed nowadays. It’s about power, you know, Bush comes from a power family and they got connections, nah mean. It’s about wealth, you know, they got the wealth they got the power.
PH: I agree man. Alright, well any last words, anything you want to tell your fans?
Lord Jamar: Much love to everyone who’s been down with Brand Nubian, nah mean. Look out for my solo album coming out at the end of the year.