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Grand Puba’s 2000: Deluxe Edition


Noticed that Grand Puba’s 1995 album 2000 got re-issued by Traffic last month as a “Deluxe Edition” with some remixes and acapellas and didn’t really read anything about it well, anywhere, which is unfortunate because the album’s been OOP for awhile now and deserves to be easily accessible. I actually think it’s significantly better than his debut and given the current rap climate of oddball rappers that kinda rap but don’t at the same time and just do whatever they want a lot of the time, there’s plenty to (re)consider about 2000.

Puba’s also dropping a new album Retroactive on June 23rd and the songs that’ve come out in anticipation are pretty good and especially “This Joint Right Here” sounds classic enough and aged that it should kinda bring a tear to your eye…This post is a rewrite of an old post I did about this album last year. Sorry things have been slow around here lately…

It’s pretty weird that right now, every bloggy-blog rapper, New York punchline rapper, and hard-ass, goofball, and both at the same time Southern rapper kinda rhymes like Grand Puba. Mixing on-point spitting with oddball digressions and a comfort with singing certainly wasn’t invented by the guy, but he’s a master, and he’s at his best on 2000, the follow-up to the much more well-known and successful debut to Reel to Reel.

There’s an odd tension between the controlled, more straight-forward production of his sophmore release and Puba’s even more unhinged rapping style. I don’t think it’s out-there to suggest that the biggest change between his 1992 solo debut and his 1995 follow-up is due to the existence of Illmatic, which for a few years there, was the ideal formula–still is, just it’s been grossly misinterpreted–and so, you have Puba forced to adjust to a focused, non-digressive production style and away from the Marley Marl aesthetic of his debut but really, not adjusting.

Unkut’s interview with Dante Ross hints at Puba’s difficulty and lack of focus on his follow-up, but Puba’s version of perfunctory isn’t detrimental, it gives the album an immediacy that’s at odds with the determined production. Really, 2000 sounds like Puba jumped in the studio and freestyled over some damned immaculate boom-bap with instrumental flourishes and bolted as soon as as he could. In that sense, he’s probably rapping the way even the “best” rappers in 2009 do it or it’s at least closer to the off-the-cuff “mixtape” style that’s makes Gucci Mane or Lil Wayne so engaging. In short, Reel to Reel made too much sense (disparate pieces of samples matched to Puba’s disparate raps) and 2000 is full of odd awkward tension and right now, rap’s all about awkward tension and 2000’s reissue can play off that.

Every track is anchored by some heavy, boom-bap drums and a warm film of record hiss, but each has its own thing for your ears to obsess over. The sci-fi bleeps and bloops that meet a lightly plucked guitar on “Keep On’,” some synths that are on some Michael Jackson “Human Nature” shit and a particularly yearning soul music wail hold “Amazing” together, and some thick flanged-out keyboard work helps sell the affecting “Change Gonna Come”. No doubt that other game-changing hip-hop classic, The Chronic is bouncing around inside of 2000 because there’s a bunch of really brilliant instrumentation on these beats.

2000’s first track, “Very Special”, begins with jazz horns under layers of record crackle before kicking into Puba’s brief interpolation of the Delfonics’ “La La Means I Love You”–at other points on the album, Puba slips into “Rock the Boat”, “Get Down Tonight”, Phoebe Snow, and Beavis & Butthead and Urkel impressions–taken so far it’s a dead-on impression of the Delfonics’ soul-singer whine but then, that part’s just over and he’s actually rapping and dropping these brilliant, almost non-sequitur punchlines that if you think about them long enough, hold a kind of internal logic that can’t be explained but work nonetheless: “So many brothers try to be me/Only two can probably see me, that’s Ray Charles and Stevie.” A few lines later, he’s telling us how he gets “honeys hooked like they kids is hooked on Power Rangers” which is one of many superhero and cartoon references that, have since become the obnoxious go-to for rappers that want to signify nerd-dom but here, feel more like Puba just doing Puba.

Nothing about these raps feels forced, so when Puba decides to actually say something it doesn’t feel like the token “message” song we anticipate on most rap albums, but a sudden revelation from the jokester of the group. “Backstabbers” is a kind of reversal on the “bros before hoes” track you expect and album closer, “Change Gonna Come” totally sells its serious message because Puba’s spent most of his time just being a dirty old man, referencing a girls’ “stinkbox” and stuff, so when he tells the listener “A gat don’t make you a man/Cause the man made the gat/So, stop with the black on black”, he means it, precisely because he hasn’t spent the past ten tracks going in that direction.

On “I Like It”, you get record fuzz, tight drums, ghostly vocal samples and a perfect vibraphone loop, while Puba flows casually, sounding off the head but never intimidated by the beat, never bleating out the lines, just taking his time and running up and around the beat, sometimes on-beat with the drums, other times a little off and repeating a word to catch-up, or committing a kind of act of rapping A.D.D and temporarily riding some subtle production flourish instead of the beat, but always making it back in time for the chorus.

Something that Traffic’s reissue enforces is the way 2000 links and mixes-up so many of the best things about rap of the mid-90s. The drums on every track are hard but the beats drip with 70s-soul crackle and vibed-out jazz; the rapping is immediate and fun but wordly-wise and far from disposable–and it also has that thing so many 90s rap albums have: a bunch of dudes just yelling shit in the background.

Rap’s always been about ego and being that dude, but there’s a communal aspect that permeates even an album like this, which is essentially guest-less and pretty much totally focused on Grand Puba. The shouts and chants and Blackstreet-esque “yeah-eahhh”s on “A Little of This” and the classic New York crew call-and-response on “2000″ remind you that the world doesn’t revolve around the guy who left Brand Nubian. Now that’s something today’s rappers could afford to swipe from Grand Puba.

Written by Brandon

May 17th, 2009 at 2:44 am

Posted in Grand Puba, Reissues

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