Brand Nubian’s ‘In God We Trust’ Turns 20
Brand Nubian made their mark on hip-hop with the group’s 1990 debut, ‘One for All.’
Unlike other rap groups who were inspired by the Five Percent theories of the Nation of Gods and Earths, it seemed that Brand Nubian did it right in the early ’90s. With afrocentric themes and a militant musicality, ‘One for All’ was viewed as a breakthrough record that encompassed the genius of New Rochelle, N.Y., rappers Grand Puba, Sadat X and Lord Jamar.
However, problems arose within the group soon after the release of their first album. And before they could get started with a sophomore project, Grand Puba left to pursue his own solo work and took DJ Alamo with him. With Sadat X and Lord Jamar left, the two enlisted DJ Sincere to complete the new dynamic. The trio worked on and soon released ‘In God We Trust’ on Feb. 2, 1993.
Following the Brand Nubian principles, the darker follow-up album was welcomed by critics despite the fact it didn’t perform as well as ‘One for All’ on the Billboard charts — the album only made it to No. 12 spot on the Billboard 200 chart and peaked at No. 4 on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart.
‘In God We Trust’ may not have carried the same success as Brand Nubian’s debut, but it did cause a bit of controversy, which is still discussed today. ‘Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down’ angered various LGBT groups for Sadat X’s homophobic line, “Though I can freak, fly, flow, f— up a faggot / I don’t understand their ways, I ain’t down with gays.”
Elektra Records, the group’s label at the time, was worried about the protests surrounding the song and group, Lord Jamar told Hip Hop DX. And when Brand Nubian found out, they didn’t give it too much attention. “In my mind I’m like, ‘Well, OK, they can protest,’ he told the site. “At that point I don’t think that community was buying hip-hop records anyway. So it’s not like your protest is gonna stop my record sales and all this type of s—. I guess y’all was trying to go after corporations and stop people from selling it. But, it didn’t work.”
‘Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down’ isn’t the only song that contained lyrics that were viewed as anti-gay, but that didn’t stop Brand Nubian from putting out more albums. While the whole record featured Sadat X and Lord Jamar, ‘Black Star Line’ took Brand Nubian to a more reggae/rap hybrid with the help of Red Fox. Promoting black power and pride, the collaboration fit nicely within the albums theme and framework.
‘In God We Trust’ is an album that may not have had commercial success, but it did set a precedent for social conscious or “thinking-man” hip hop — making it an album to check out even 20 years later.
Watch ‘Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down’ Video