Brand Nubian Rips Down Atlanta (2/26/08)

Classic music is timeless, but great artists are not. Music trends and time can render a once influential artist obsolete; a relic of a forgotten era. Despite this harsh ending for some, other artists still retain their aura, maintaining a quiet dignity in light of the ever changing music scene. Brand Nubian falls in the latter category. Whether it’s 1990, 1998, or 2008, their pro-Black consciousness never wavered. Last week, the venerable champions of the Nation of Gods and Earths brought their seminal sound to Atlanta.

The last time Brand Nubian performed in Atlanta was roughly 10 years ago. Ironically, what brought them back here was the upstart car company Scion. In order to live up to their hipster image, the company has sponsored a free Hip-Hop concert series for the past two years. Scion’s formula is to pair legendary artists with a live band to create a unique, atmospheric Hip-Hop experience.

The resulting shows have ranged from exceptional (Ghostface, De La Soul) to mediocre (GZA). However, Brand Nubian showed they were up to the task of modifying their songs to a live band accompaniment.

The group started strong with “Step To The Rear;” the Grand Puba solo off their debut One for All. Even 18 years later, it’s still clear why Puba is the standout member of the group. He effortlessly recited his rhymes with succinct timing and breath control. From there, the group transitioned to “All for One,” with the MC’s leading a call and response with the audience to accentuate the classic chorus.

Sadat X appeared under the weather as his voice hoarse from the beginning. He gamely went through his verse, sometimes appearing in pain when he raised his voice. Lord Jamar carried his standout verse well, pontificating on the finer points of 5% philosophy.

For the middle portion of the show, fans were treated to popular singles from Grand Puba’s solo catalog: “360 Degrees (What Goes Around)” and “I Like It.” While the live band’s rendition of “I Like It” didn’t have the same allure without the high pitched vocal samples, the house singer did an admirable job in mimicking the record.

The remaining highlights included spirited renditions of “Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down” and of course, “Slow Down,” which lit the crowd on fire. Predominantly filled with those in their mid to late 20’s, the audience had no problem reciting every word, complete with off-key, bellowing renditions of the chorus.

Touched by the reception, Brand Nubian took the time to thank us over the “Slow Down” break beat to thunderous applause. It was a fitting conclusion to a great evening of Hip-Hop. Brand Nubian took it all in, raising their fists high, secure in their status as Hip-Hop elder statesmen. All for one, indeed.