Friday, May 28, 2010

Allah U Akbar

When Grand Puba left Brand Nubian (uh, the first time), there was a lot of question about whether the group would hold up. Sure, we knew from "Concerto In X Minor" that Puba wasn't the only praise-worthy mic holder in the group, but it was still pretty unclear what would be left when you took out the most dynamic element. Think Fugees minus Lauryn. And regardless of the creative content, I remember being pretty convinced at the time that this second album was going to be a one-off for devotees and the final Nubian album. It was a good look that Elektra didn't drop them right there.

And Elektra was surely all the more nervous when they first heard the single they'd soon be offering up to the public. "Allah U Akbar" certainly didn't have the upbeat swing of "One for All," the crossover sound of "Slow Down" or a collection of witty one-liners from Puba. A gritty self-produced beat, some tough lyrics ("So if you’re feeling lucky, then come and catch a buck. How could I kill a man? Well, I just don’t give a fuck! ...We’re bound to win, 'cause God don’t like ugly. You'll get slugged, rushed, raped, robbed and mugged, G.") and an attention-getting vocal loop for a hook added up to a pretty rugged debut. Even just the title... of course, it's a very positive saying (it means "Allah is the greatest;" it's a saying of praise); but I don't think it was an easy sell to MTV's advertisers in '92.

But lyrically, except for some standard NY tough talk in the mix, it's actually a pretty simple reintroduction of themselves. Sadat lays down the plot of their return:

"The deuce crew of the new makes the whole shit clear, yeah.
Give the question - I’m tired of brothers guessin'.
The Nubian name
Brought the X a lot of fame,
But wouldn’t it be a shame if it all up and ended?
That ain’t the plan I had, and shit like that ain’t intended."

It's really just a simple, unpretentious single to say, "hey we're back!" And the B-side is even less pretentious: another album track called "Steal Ya 'Ho." It's kind of a lighthearted extension of Jamar's line from "All for One," "every time I drop a rhyme to show Jamal is intellectual... girls wanna get sexual," with the pair kicking somewhat dirty raps about girls over another self-produced beat.

By the way - a quick aside to discuss dates. Discogs for some reason lists this single as coming out in1993, as opposed to the album and the "Punks Jump Up" single, which they list as 1992. But I could swear this one actually dropped first. And just check the scan I posted: the date is clearly labeled 1992. At any rate, this definitely came out around the earlier side of things, and their biggest hit from the album, "Love Me Or Leave Me Alone," came later.

So, okay, back to the music. Besides the two songs, and instrumentals, we also get two remixes - one of each song, both also self-produced. The "Steal Ya 'Ho" remix is interesting... it takes out the familiar funk guitar and replaces it with a simpler, grittier beat that draws you in more with the bassline. It's kinda cool, but would be non-essential except for the fact that it's also a lyrical remix. So it's essentially a whole new song, with new lyrics and instrumental. ...Not one of Brand Nubian's better songs, mind you (lyrically, it's kinda lame), but still.

And the same goes for "Allah U Akbar" - it's not just an instrumental remix (this one's more smoothed out and kinda cool), but it's a lyrical remix as well. This mix is way more in tune with what you'd probably have expected from the song in the first place: Five Percenter talk, social and political commentary, shots at the devil. This time around Jamar's on some righteous shit. And Sadat, well...

"Your raggedy ass women, they always be lustin'.
Pale, skinny creatures with subhuman features.
Have you ever noticed when it rains and their hair gets wet,
That it stinks so bad it makes you have to jet?"

So, it's not exactly a remix I'd recommend casually around the office. But if you like your Brand Nubian records O.G. and edgy, I don't see how you could resist adding it to your collection.


  1. Again, nice post. I remember when this album came out, and I definitely recall "Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down" being the lead single. "Love Me Or Leave Me Alone" came second, and "Allah U Akbar" was the third and final single.

  2. Plug One Boss,
    Yes, you are correct about the order of the 3 singles. Here's an unrelated note about "Punks Jump Up". This is something I have always wondered about. "Punks Jump Up" was the first single and it contained clean and dirty versions of the beat we hear in the video. The single also included the remix featuring Diamond D. Anyway, several months after this single dropped, The "In God we Trust" album came out. The "Punks Jump Up" album version's beat is completely different than the single version and the Diamond D remix. I wonder why they changed it? Did they not like it? Was it an alternate mix? Were there sample problems that stirred up after the single was released?

  3. I was just gonna say the same thing about Punks Jump Up being the lead single. I remember that ish was banging in the neighborhoods at the time. Everybody was loving it.
    I remember thinking back then, how were they gonna pull this off without Puba and especially at that time.
    But Punks Jump Up ushered in the new Nubian sound into that era. Such a simple and effective hook.

    Anyways, thanks as always for your comprehensive illuminating posts.
    I bought the In God We Trust tape back then but I just can't remember if the Punks Jump Up was different. I do remember something being different about it and I'm sure that must be it since you say it was. I would guess that, as per usual, maybe sample clearance issues?

    And I never saw that "The Madness" 12 you just reviewed, but I wonder if I ever heard it. Possible, but it's not on youtube or anything so I dunno.

    Thanks again Werner.

  4. Ok, I guess I'll accept that "Allah" didn't come first. That, or the Illuminati got to you guys, too... trying to mess with my Brand Nubian memories. lol

    Verge, that Madness review (and all the DWG reviews) has mp3 sound clips, so you can check out both tracks.

  5. Oh damn, thanks Werner. Shows how much attention I can pay at one

  6. What may have thrown you off about the "Allah U Akbar" label is Elektra printed the phonograph copyright (p), which is when a recording is published and copyrighted instead of the copyright (c), which is for the year that song is copyrighted for release. If you check the back cover of the record, you will see that the copyright year for "Allah U Akbar" is 1993.