Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Brand Nubian were a crew of rough and tumble rappers from the streets of New Rochelle (a.k.a. Now Rule), New York. Ostensibly fronted by Maxwell “Grand Puba” Dixon, formerly of the group Masters of Ceremony, he came together with Derek “Sadat X” Murphy and Lorenzo “Lord Jamar” DeChalus, two other young but righteousemcees. Together, with DJs Alamo and Sincere, they released One For All towards the end of 1990. It’s a stunning debut, filled with rock solid beats and lyrics, accompanied by heavy doses of politically charged rhetoric.
Puba, Sadat, and Jamar were all extremely adept at kicking straight lyrical shit or using the rhymes to try to educate and inspire action. Puba could rap all about “hitting skinz” on “Step to the Rear,” then turn around to rhyme about elevating the consciousness of Black people in America on “Wake Up.” The group could trade verses about executing verbal slaughter on emcees on “To the Right,” and then lament the effects of the crack epidemic on their hit single “Slow Down.”
The beats, produced by Puba, SD50s, and Skeff Anselm, delved deep into the soul—and occasionally jazz and rock crates—creating a backdrop that was alternatively funky (“Ragtime”) and ethereal (the aforementioned “Wake Up”). One For All displayed the chemistry that all three members possessed together (although the second half of the album ostensibly turns into a Puba solo record), and delivered just the right balance of lyrical exercise and upliftment.