If you know LORD JAMAR it will probably be from his work with “golden age” Hip Hop legends BRAND NUBIAN, so let’s just cap that in a short bit with words from the man himself. For Jamar, Brand Nubian “ has a solid place in Hip Hop history. I feel we’re respected.” From his inner perspective he sums up the bands greatest moments thus “ Our first great moment was when I was walking through Harlem and our first album had just come out. I realized that every car going by, that was playing loud music, was playing one of our songs from the album. The second great moment would have to be when we played at the Syracuse Homecoming. One of my Hip Hop Idols, Run DMC & Jam Master Jay, where headlining the show, but because we were so hot at the time, they let us close the show! The third great moment was realizing we had become Hip Hop Legends in our own right .” It’s not for nothing that Jamar closes with a sentence that includes the word “legends “ but that’s not to say his ego is out of check. Nubian is still active after all and still pushing forward and one of the few groups worthy of the name. Some have said in the past that the groups’ intense in your face message was racist towards white people or homophobic – Jamar squashes those criticisms immediately “The duty of the civilized, is to teach Freedom, Justice, & Equality to ALL HUMAN FAMILIES of the planet earth. I would also tell them we're living in a time that if you disagree with power structure, you will be negatively labeled. If you say you’re against the war you’re "UN-AMERICAN." If you say the word ‘faggot’ in a song, no matter what the context, you’re "homophobic." It’s easy to tell that Lord Jamar is not afraid to stand up and speak his own personal truth; and it’s a truth that rings true for many both in his community and within his field of contemporaries. That’s what made Brand Nubian special back in the day and when Jamar openly states that he’s “always had the desire to "tell the real deal." Nothing has changed for me as far as that is concerned” it’s easy to conclude that his outspoken nature is also going to play a crucial role in the record before you now.
So why a LORD JAMAR solo album now and why an album about the 5% message?
Jamar says I've always wanted to do a solo album but certain things
side-tracked me, i.e.: working with Dead Prez, acting in things like Oz,
etc. Originally my album was supposed to come last year but we pushed
it back so I could create more fire.” For Jamar making the
record an album about his culture was a logical move. He grew up with
a generation of rappers that were down with the 5% message, including
hip hop acts like The World Famous Supreme Team, Just-Ice, Rakim of Eric
B & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Poor Righteous Teachers all the members
of the Wu Tang Clan (more on them in a minute), Digable Planets, &
Busta Rhymes. Seeing this list it’s not surprising one thought to
do this kind of record before now!
Jamar further explains “there are more rappers in the Five Percent Nation than in Minister Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam (NOI) because the NOI doesn't lend itself to Hip Hop. The NOI is a very structured, & rigid organization. Hip Hop is very loose, and free. The two don't complement each other. Whereas the Five Percent Nation is more ‘in the street,’ and is already respected, & accepted by the Hip Hop generation. The Five Percent Nation also isn’t anything to do with straight Islam. I know of a few rappers who are straight Muslim, but they don’t outnumber those in the Five Percent Nation. I am not an oppressor of Muslims; I have no fear of them. We in the N.G.E. (Nation of Gods and Earths a.k.a The 5 Percenters) are not Muslims. To be a Muslim is to submit to the will of Allah, & practice the religion of Islam. To be a member of the N.G.E. is to come in the name of Allah, & to study I.S.L.A.M, which stands for I Self Lord And Master. See, in the Five Percent Nation, each man is the sole controller of his own universe. If you're the god of your universe, you set up your own laws.” Jamar elaborates “the 5% message has something for everyone that wants to learn. It's true this nation was started to empower poor black youth, but the lessons taught are ones we can all use.”
Nation of Gods and Earths hold beliefs so far removed from mainstream Islamic teachings as to be virtually unrecognizable as Islamic. For example, the chant "Allah wa Akbar" ("God is Greatest") in the context of a Brand Nubian song means something very different than in mainstream Islamic beliefs. God/Allah, for Five Percenters, is not the Divinity as conventionally defined by the monotheistic faiths. God is the black man. It would be a pitfall to adopt a position of fear, shock and horror towards 5%-er beliefs. Groups like the N.G.E and their doctrines may prove problematic or heretical to some but in this day and age we need to try to understand them and to engage them.
Jamar in speaking out for his culture is giving us insight into a movement rarely discussed in the media at all. 5%-er beliefs have been at the core of Hip Hop for decades now. Yet Jamar is bringing us a message unheard and unspoken in the media. It’s a message many are listening to. Instead of following preconceptions maybe we should just make up our own minds. The N.G.E can be seen as a uniquely American movement. In the same way that Hip Hop is a uniquely American music. The N.G.E believe in the divinity of the black man: that the black man is the original man (science seems to be helping them prove that fact); they believe that teaching based on technology is simply "tricknology” (haven’t we all heard the tales of kids who can’t do math without a calculator?), they believe that mathematics is a superior form of understanding (again given the recent advances in mathematics this would appear to be true in many ways) and they believe that Freedom, Justice, & Equality is to be had for all people(don’t we all feel that way?). Agree or disagree this is a message that holds interest for many. Jamar isn’t asking you to convert. You can still listen to his album and enjoy it as entertainment and music in its own rights but in our divided nation we need to understand the voices around us if we are to progress. The 5% Message is an important message many urban youth are being exposed to. Agree or disagree with it, however, you can still get down with Jamar’s music. Jamar is reaching out and giving a voice to something he’s lived for many years.
Jamar, after all, has put a popular face on his culture before, when he played a 5%-er in the acclaimed HBO series OZ – “ OZ was a great experience for me. I'm not sure if it impacted my music, but it definitely showed me I can do anything I put my mind to. I've done a lot of shows since then: "Law & Order" (once on original show, & twice on SVU), "Third Watch," & recently "The Sopranos." I've shot several independent films: "Morning Breath," "Funny Valentine," "L-O-V-E-", "They’re Just My Friends” to name a few. I will definitely do more acting in the future .”
Let’s also not forget about Jamar’s production work for
acts like Black Moon, Artifacts and Dead Prez. For Jamar when we name-drop
them he says “You just named a bunch of my friends. I've been
hands-on producing since "In God We Trust." Artifacts were our
first known fans. That's how I met them. We started kicking it
and they revealed they rhymed. I liked their stuff, so I produced a song
for them, which ended up getting them their deal. I lived in Brooklyn
for 10 years, & during that time Buckshot and me would hook up. I
had a studio in my crib, and Buck would come over, and just do his thing.
I ended up doing joints for him, Helta Skeltha, & O.G.C. I also met
Dead Prez at this time. Once again, these were fans that had something
to say themselves. I knew I had something with these brothers. I started
working with them, helping them to develop their sound, giving them the
kind of insight on the game that I wish I had coming in. Got them tight,
shopped 'em, and got them signed to Loud, when Loud was the shit
.” Jamar puts all that history in production to good use on the
Also you can find Lord Jamar on mypsace. He sees “the Internet
is a good tool. Somewhere like OTBRADIO.COM, or MYSPACE are great places
to build your base hands on, & to help level the playing field. I
even met the God Gensu Dean on MYSPACE, who ended up getting two tracks
on my album (“The Greatest Story Never Told,” &
“The Cipher” ”featuring 40 Bandits.)” And
speaking of guests let’s not forget that the record features members
of the Wu Tang Clan - Jamar elaborates “I met the Gods back
in the day when we first came out. I remember building with RZA,
GZA, & Dirty back then, I always felt the gods. That's family. My
original goal was to get all the Gods from the Hip Hop nation. It just
so happens that the Gods from Wu are ones that stepped up to the plate.
Peace to the entire Wu Tang Clan.”
Let’s also not forget that Jamar’s story and the story of N.G.E is a New York one, Harlem USA and Now Rule, New Rochelle, NY. For Jamar, New York “means my home. It means Hip Hop's home. It means me.” Jamar sees his album as “classic Lord Jamar s**t. As far as how it will do, as long as each and every member of my great nation supports me on this, I'll be just fine. I'm not trying to take Kanye West’s fans, (or any other rapper for that matter) I'm strengthening mine.”