Sometimes it just does not pay to be ahead of your time. Reason being, those that invent, or are ahead of the curve, rarely reap the financial benefits of that work; Grand Puba is a shining testament of this example! You see Puba has always been one step ahead of the competition. First as a member of Brand Nubian, where Pu, Sadat X, Lord Jamar, and Alamo dropped one of hip-hop’s true landmark LP’s, with their seminal debut One For All.
Though Pu left the trio shortly thereafter to explore his own path, his trend setting ways continued on his 1992 solo-debut, Reel To Reel, a debut which gave us a glimpse of what styles would still be so in vogue today. In short, Pu had both the commercial, and underground on lock, and long before Method Man was a glimmer in hip-hop’s eye, Pu had already jumpstarted the hip-hop/soul crossover movement, knocking out an influential jam (“What’s The 411″) with hip-hop’s #1 soul sista Mary J. Blige.
Yet, instead of playing the accustomed role of trendsetter with his third solo-foray, Puba is merely following them with Understand This. Similar, to most of our old-school legends, Pu is faced with an inevitable awkward transition, struggling to connect with contemporary hip-hop fans that have a different agenda then the ones who initially embraced him. Though Pu’s chic flow, and vernacular wordplay are still prevalent (“Up & Down “). Unfortunately, the flamboyant attributes Pu once called upon at will are beginning to wane in the twilight of his distinguished career.
While Understand This is virtually a self-contained effort; there are only a handful of collaborations and Puba exclusively mans the boards for all but one track. Pu’s monotonous production (“Issues”) affixes a very discernible been there, done that before stamp to Understand This. And although Puba displays some of yesteryear’s versatility on the deadbeat Dad bashing “Baby Mama Drama”, and the spacey “Up And Down.” The previous adeptness Pu demonstrated at juggling a variety of styles is a non-factor here, as Understand predominantly beats a party & bullshit drum, without the prescribed edutaining chaser.
Even the everlasting chemistry of Puba and his Brand Nubian cohorts is tested, as Sadat joins Pu for the embarrassingly rudimentary “What’s Up With It” which is far from Brand Nu. Fortunately, Lord Jamar fairs slightly better on “Keep It Movin”.
The steady diet of filler, flimsy hooks, and skits included here leads us to a very pertinent question; is Understand This just a capricious transgression, or is Puba just the latest old-school legend that has ran out of relevant things to say? Either way, you will cram to understand Pu in 2001?.
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