Artist: Grand Puba
Album: Reel To Reel
Rating: 9 / 10
After a successful album with Brand Nubian (1990’s “All For One”), Grand Puba decided to strike out on his own, and with a little help from his two DJ’s, Alamo and Stud Doogie, 1992 saw the release of “Reel To Reel”.
Content-wise, “Reel To Reel” is not much of a departure from the formula used on the Brand Nubian album. A follower of the 5% Nation, Puba touches on society’s ills and “black issues”; interspersed with braggadocious tracks and what seems to be Puba’s favorite pastime : pursuing women. A gifted MC, Puba almost effortlessly switches from entertaining the listener to schooling them and back again. This diversity of subject matter, coupled with Puba’s distinctive delivery (he has an unmistakable voice : it really has to be heard to be appreciated) makes the album quite enjoyable from start to finish.
Production on the album is mostly handled by Puba himself, with assistance from Kid Capri, the Stimulated Dummies, DJ SHabazz, and Latief; the Brand New Heavies also show up for the last song, ‘Who Makes The Loot’, for one of their classic “look, no loops”, tracks. Funky sampling abounds on the album, which, despite being 13 years old, still sounds pretty fresh today. Most of the tracks have a nice, smokey, chilled-out vibe to them, and as is commonplace with MC’s who also produce, Puba flows effortlessly over them. On ‘Proper Education’, Puba uses a delicious reggae-flavored bass loop to enlighten the listener about the bum deal Black America gets:
“Well they gave restitution to the Japanese
You see they gave restitution to the Jews,
But over 400 years of slavery rape and murder
But I guess it’s no restitution for the fools
They want to use us as a tool, and also as a slave
In the land of the free, in the home of the brave,
Moussa came to the cave and taught the lot
The trick knowledge that the devil once was god,
Now the 10% rules over the 85,
You see we have to do more than just keep hope alive,
I don’t hope and I don’t do dope
But I still feel the pain from my ancestors
Swingin’ on a rope” (‘Proper Education’)
This album is a classic representation of its time; before the thug mentality took over commercial rap, MC’s like Grand Puba earned respect for their skills on the mic and versatility with the pen. One of the best of it’s day, if you haven’t heard this album yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out : there’s a little something for everybody on it.