Lord Jamar Interview (by A to the L)

Lord Jamar

Punks are STILL jumpin’ up to get beatdown. A lotta muhfuckas have forgotten about Brand Nubian. A lotta muhfuckas aren’t EVEN aware of a group CALLED Brand Nubian. Slow down – you living foul. On a short mini-tour of the UK and Scandanavia, Brand Nubian were finally cornered in my man Mistajam’s flat a few hours before their flight to Norway. So Pete hooks the interview up, I call him back, and none other than Lord Jamar answers – this is how it went down…

First up – where have y’all been? The last joint was “Foundation” right?

LJ: We been laying low, doing our thing, you know? We had some issues to settle with Arista with regards to getting offa there once they changed Clive Davis…. switched to LA Reid and shit… and then we had an album that we were gonna put out, but then… they just switched the whole shit, and so it was all fucked up, and we had to get out. Label politics basically.

And you got this little tour going on – how long do you intend that to last?

LJ: Its not really a tour as such… we’re just doing a few shows, and we’re gonna be out here for about a week – we’re doing Scandanavia, and one show in the UK.

And its the full original line up for you guys again, or is DJ Sincere still part of the mix?

LJ: Yeah its back to how it used to be – Grand Puba, Lord Jamar, Sadat X, and DJ Alamo… the original Brand Nubian back in effect!

So what’s the deal with you and the labels? First of all you had three albums out on Elektra, then you switched to Arista. Now you’re off there too… what happened?

LJ: Well with Elektra, I think we just ran our course. Basically we did all we could do with them… and we felt like they couldn’t really promote us the way we felt we needed to be promoted. So we got offa there, got with Arista… Clive Davis was cool and all… and then shit fucked up over there. The whole label just got fucked up.

And where does that leave you now – do you have a new label?

LJ: Nah, not right now. We’re free agents at the moment, so knows what way things is gonna fall? We might put something out independently, or come up on another deal somewhere else. We just gotta wait and see what happens.

So obviously you have been working on new tracks in the background?

LJ: Oh yeah. Definitely. We’re always working on new music and new ideas.

In the beginning, you flipped a lot of black conciousness rhymes that often had to be studied hard to get a feel for the true meaning of what you were saying. “Everything Is Everything” was a lot more in your face, inflammatory even, while “Foundation” was a lot more refined and matured. Was this gradual change intentional?

LJ: Well with every album you just do what you feel at that time. You talk about what you want to talk about, HOW you want to talk about it, over the beats that you choose at that time. Looking at our albums as a complete body of work I guess you could say that we maybe have matured over the years, we’ve become more comfortable with arguing our points rather that forcing them – though that doesn’t mean that our stance on certain issues has changed or softened. But really, it was all about each album at THAT TIME – when we recorded each one we weren’t interested in what we done before or what we might do after. We just wanted to make a good album each session.

Obviously there’s a parallel between artists like yourselves and cats like Dead Prez in terms of the messages in your music. When you were involved in signing Dead Prez did you see them as a group you could kinda pass the torch to?

LJ: Most definitely… and that’s kinda what attracted me to them in the first place. Their conciousness, and their creativity, and their thoughts just kinda echoed ours… these guys are incredibly talented. And yeah, the thought was there I suppose that these guys… you can pass the torch as you put it… although we still kinda got the torch and ain’t planning on giving it up any time soon!

Speaking on the Hiphop world in general, a lot of artists who were out around the time you guys first came out have struggled a little to maintain their relevance. The older heads recognise what they’ve done for the artform, while the younger fans just want to hear the new Eve, the new Nelly and the new Ja-Rule. Have you found this a problem at all?

LJ: Well yes and no… I think sometimes you just gotta wait your turn. You just gotta let things happen sometimes… let shit cool down. I done see a lot of people come and go in this game you know… its only certain people that last the test of time. And so, sometimes you just gotta sit back and wait out the cycle. Just let people get with the bullshit for a minute.. but eventually the times are gonna call for the music to change. I mean with what we’re all going through now with this war and shit? Those are the kind of conditions that make certain musics popular again. Its coming. So… we’re letting these guys do their thing right now – but they’re gonna be asking for us soon.

And with the messed up state that the radio is in at the minute, have you check out other ways to keep your name out there?

LJ: Well we’re always doing something. Even if its pressing up singles individually or collectively, we’re always keeping busy. I’ve been doing some acting shit… just… you know, keeping it out there.

In the past you’ve been tagged with this “unlucky” label because of the issues you’ve had with each album, whether it be the major bootlegging of “One For All” through to the serious lack of promotion for “Foundation”. Are you stocking up on lucky heather and rabbit’s feet before you drop future releases?

LJ: (laughing) I don’t know whether we believe that its all down to good or bad luck, you know? I just think that we all hope that the next joint we put out can get the fair chance that any record deserves. That’s all we really want… just don’t slack off our shit. You know, cos there’s a lot of other stuff out there now that isn’t quality, and yet they’ll still promote it cos they see some way to make the cash. Just don’t put us below them for no reason… that’s all we ask.

In my research for this piece I came up on a couple of articles that mentioned your work in your local communities. In a Hiphop world that you have to admit is incredibly fickle, does Brand Nubian still get the love from the communities that you used to?

LJ: Oh definitely, we still do. That’s what’s crazy about it – in one way you look and you see numbers, and people are telling you that you can go platinum and all of that, but you don’t make those numbers. And yet you go in the street and people are down with you like you ARE platinum… giving up love. So yeah, we love the streets, and we get a lot of love and respect back from the street.

What kinds of changes are you hoping to make in the communities, and what influences you to make these changes?

LJ: Every day is our influence. The shit we see going on around us every day… going on around our kids every day. We wanna make a better community, a better city, and a better world for our kids. We wanna make the place safer for our kids you know?

We’ve mentioned the destinations on your tour, and obviously this helps prove the point that Hiphop is very much a global phenomenon. Do you feel you sometimes get more love from fans in other countries than you do back home?

LJ: In certain ways – most definitely. I mean, I feel that when you go to other countries the fans there are not all about what you have out at that time, and what kinda hype you got going on around you at that time. If they love your music, they’re gonna love it forever. I mean at home its more about what’s going on RIGHT NOW, and though that’s cool sometimes it can also work against you at times too.

You’re the only Brand Nubian member who hasn’t dropped a solo effort. Is there any particular reason behind that?

LJ: Well I always enjoyed the group environment. And I always thought that when the time was right I would do one, and make it just crazy crazy… and I never really felt that I had something that was crazy enough to work a whole album with. I mean, I don’t wanna be putting out an album just for the sake of it. But I think I will eventually. And the rest of the guys are always working on new shit too – X always got something in the mix, and Puba be doing shit too you know?

You already mentioned about your acting experience. Do you have any more plans to follow on from OZ with any more TV or movie work?

LJ: Yeah well… I did a couple of small films with Anthony Michael Hall… also did an episode of Law & Order. I like working in films – its very different to being in the studio – you very concious of being directed to do things rather than just go up in a booth and do your own shit you know? It takes a lot more people at one time to get an end product in films…. sometimes thats good, sometimes bad.

So sum it up – what’s Brand Nubian about in the year 2003 and beyond?

LJ: Well basically we’re trying to put out classic music, and just stay on the path that we’ve been staying on. Coming out with something old, but new… you know… not just be coming out with the same sounds that everyone be dropping, having classic samples and shit like that… but at the same time making it hot for today. Not getting caught up in some old school shit… but just showing our maturity and our experience in the game. We wanna let motherfuckers know that we can still hang with the best in the game right now.

Thanks to Lord Jamar for taking part, and to my main homeslice Mistajam for hooking this shit up.

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