Grand Puba satisfies the jones of many a head raised on the golden age of New York boom-bap rap with "RetroActive," crafting a laid-back affair that might just be the best of the Brand Nubian solo albums.
Grand Puba had the excellent luck of being part of the classic hip-hop group Brand Nubian. He also had the unfortunate luck of (usually) being outshined by the outsized personalities of BN's other two MCs, the Five Percent-tric Lord Jamar and the loquacious, high-energy Sadat X.
But he was a consistent presence, and a fine MC in his own right, and with "RetroActive," he may just have made the most appealing of the Brand Nubian-related solo albums.
Where X has put out a string of decent, if inconsistent, solo records, and Lord Jamar's solo album was basically a massive Five Percenter history lesson (not a knock, just sayin'... if you're talking mass appeal, they don't call it Five Percent for nothin') with OK beats, Puba's solo work (1992's "Reel to Reel" and especially 1995's excellent "2000") has been just as good, if not better.
And knock me as an ex-backpacker if you want, but with an album called "RetroActive," how can you not appreciate all of the laid-back, mid-'90s-ish beats on display through the album's 13 tracks?
Featuring several self-produced tracks as well as boardwork from Q-Tip and Large Professor, it's no surprise that the heavy strings of "Get That Money," the swinging horns of "How Long?" and the clickety-clack percussion of "Good to Go" have the bump and bounce of Brand Nubian's best work.
Puba goes way old school with Kid Capri on the uptempo "This Joint Right Here" and the burbling piano of "Go Hard" will have you longing for the glory days of New York boom-bap rap.
Hate if you want. For someone raised on the golden age of East Coast hip-hop, "RetroActive" is the perfect throwback soundtrack for a summer of (thus far) lightweight rap releases.
"RetroActive" will be released June 23. For more, visit Amazon.com.