Grand Puba, the man who happens to be one third of the legendary group Brand Nubian, and the person that single-handedly introduced designer labels like Girbaud and Tommy Hilfiger to urban culture back in the mid 90’s, returns with his forth solo album, Retroactive.
Enlisting the help of long time collaborators like Q-Tip, Kid Capri, Large Professor, and band mates Lord Jamar and Sadat X—[Grand] Puba sticks to his script of “knowledge of self” combined with witty lyricism that started back in 1990, with his classic contributions to Brand Nubian’s One For All masterpiece.
Starting off with ‘I See Dead People,’ featuring Lord Jamar, Grand Puba Maxwell sheds light on topics like the assassination of African-American leaders, to the history of slavery, right down to the police killing innocent people.
On ‘Hunny,’ he switches gears and points all his attention towards the opposite sex, as he runs off a tale of trying to court that special lady.
One of the strongest songs on the album comes in on ‘Good To Go’ featuring Q-Tip (who also produced). Behind Q-Tip’s quirky instrumentation and faint guitar riff, [Grand] Puba shows doubters that he still has something left in the tank:
“I’m good to go/flow like H2O/lets get it in with the pro/time to school those who don’t know/been rockin’ joints like this since 13-years-old/you know who I be/Grand P/hi G/I don’t do this for free/it’s the God degree.”
Large Professor and loans some lyrics and his production skills to ‘Same Old Drama,’ as both Hip-Hop veterans share their views on things like inflated gas prices, to how racist people didn’t want to vote for President Obama. On ‘It Is What It Is,’ Grand Pu uses each one of his verses to run through a descriptive story of a black girl lost:
“Now she had a big future ahead of her/big as in back of her/had a man, and all he started doin’ was just smackin’ her/shorty fell hard, started lookin’ like sh*t/drinkin’ every night, doin’ sniff with the piff/ sleepin’ all day, comin’ out at night/lived the vampire life/and caught by the pipe.”
Other tracks on Grand Puba’s fourth go-around are songs like the Kid Capri-driven ‘This Joint Right Here,’ ‘Get That Money,’ and ‘Go Hard.’
There comes a time in every artists career that when they come to a crossroad, they’ll either conform to the new gimmick of today, or stay true to themselves.
In the case of Retroactive, the cover art is fitting because Grand Puba remains who he is, and surrounds himself with subject matter that he’s an expert of.
In hindsight, some of the things he chooses to talk about on Retroactive might leave those unfamiliar with his history debating on whether to watch paint dry instead.
But for the older and more mature Hip-Hop audience that practically grew up on him, this album is still right along those lines of MC’ing in its purest form, spearheaded by someone who knows the art very well…