Wednesday, April 22, 2009

4 From the Nubians

This is a compelling, yet confusing, little release on a label that specializes in both compelling and confusing releases: a 4-track 12" by Brand Nubians featuring Grand Puba on Echo International in '99. Now, calling them the Brand Nubians may've been an error, or it may've been a creative attempt to circumvent legal hassles with BN's record label(s)... but in either case, there is historical precedent for use of the name. Their 1989 debut single for Elektra was actually "Brand Nubian" by Brand Nubians ...although that, too, may've been an error on the label's part. But I don't call this record confusing because of a niggling "s," but because of how random the track-listing is.

Two of these songs had previously been released, so let's get those out of the way first. The first song on side A is "Play It Cool." Ok, well "Play It Cool" originally appeared on Grand Puba's second album, 2000 (which, despite its name, was released in 1995). It was noteworthy at the time, because it was the first collaboration between Puba and Brand Nubian after he and Alamo left the group in 1991 - it's a duet with Sadat X, and it's over one of the nicest beats on the album, provided by Minnesota.

Ok, now let's flip this over to the second song on side B: "Kick Styles." This one's a little tricky, because they've changed the name on us, but this song was also previously released. "Kick Styles" is actually "I Flip Styles," a nice, 12" only-cut that was featured as the exclusive B-side to DITC's "All Love" 12". It features Puba, Sadat X and Diamond D over a track that Diamond also produced. Ha - you try to trick me, Echo International, but the Werner is too smart for you! :-D

Alright, but now let's get to the reason to actually buy this 12" - the exclusive stuff. First up is "Time To Put It On," a Grand Puba solo joint. It's got a funky, slow beat with deep horns and a hook that goes, "Grand Puba time to bag the dough. Stud Doogie and Alamo; time to put it on." A large chunk of the lyrics are lifted from his single "Amazing" (although it's clearly a different recording, since a few words are different... for instance what was "trippin' MCs up like astroturf" there is "trippin' niggas up like astroturf" here). So it's a new hook and beat with those old rhymes, but then when he reaches what would've been the end of the verse in "Amazing," he keeps rhyming new lyrics we haven't heard before:

"My lingo's like a Thursday night on the church bingo.
My props to Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Ringo.
If I was in South Africa, I'd be a mandingo,
Creepin' through the bush lookin' for a joint single.
So come on, give a nigga his. I'ma earn mine,
But I'll catch ya all on the next time."

And finally is another Grand Puba joint, this time entitled "Don't Change." Interestingly, he date-checks 1994 in the lyrics to this one, so I guess Echo is digging deep in the vaults here. It's a duet with a female R&B singer - essentially another follow-up to "What's the 411?" If you asked me to take a guess, I'd hypothesize that this was meant for 2000, but then they ultimately decided they didn't want another song of this nature for that album and left it off. The lyrics to this one are pretty much all new this time, although he lifts one of his own punchlines from the song "Amazing"... Yes, that line was used in "Time To Put It On," too! "It's the New York shocker representin' like a Knickerbocker; watch me get it cookin' like Betty Crocker," becomes "representin' New York like a Knickerbocker, shuttin' down MCs like a pair of Blue Blockers." It's a nice track with a smooth soul sample. He refers to his partner as "Mariah," and it certainly sounds like Mariah Carey... but it's hard to imagine his label opting to not release a duet with an mega-celebrity like Mariah! But it sure sounds like her to me, and he calls her "Mariah" more than once. So you make the call.

So this is another one of Echo's nice, may-or-may-not-be-a-bootleg releases. It's definitely worth any Puba fan's time to pick this one up for the unreleased joints. And even the two previously released ones are at least good selections. And it goes for cheap, which is nice. But it raises some good questions for anyone ever interviewing Grand Puba...


  1. sorry, meant to write

    *it doesnt sound like he says mariah , more like mahia (or something like that)*

  2. re: "love me...", a lot of people say mary j blige, but why would a feature of hers be hidden in 92/93, i couldnt find a proper credit yet, i tend to think its somebody else

  3. re: "love me..." : got it, crystal gamble somebody says on youtube comments, she sang on erick sermons "boomdigi"

    thanks for your blogging, keep doing your thing , werner !

  4. Yeah, Mary J would kind of be like Mariah... you'd think the label would have plastered a feature like that all over.

    If anyone ever interviews Puba, that's a question to remember to ask him for sure. 8)

    P.s. - No offense, but I nixed the mp3 business. There're some cheap copies available over on discogs at the moment, though:

  5. Hi´ I've been looking for this record for few years and i'd appreciate if somebody could upload track "don't change".
    Thank David

  6. I can do you one better. You've been looking for it for years? Well, here's a link to a couple copies for sale from different sellers: