The 5% Album
Lord Jamar is best-known as a member of Brand Nubian, the influential alt-rap group whose style and sound could've been mistaken for their Native Tongue peers were it not for their controversial religious and political stances, which grew increasingly outspoken in support of Minister Louis Farrakhan in the wake of Grand Puba's 1991 departure. Despite a few excellent mid-'90s albums, the group never quite overcame the loss of their frontman. And though the original trio (which also included Sadat X) reunited for 1998's impressive return to form, Foundation, LJ's best work in recent years has arguably been as an actor on HBO's prison drama "Oz."
The 5% Album marks his solo debut, with the title referring to his embrace of the Five Percent Nation, an Islamic sect built on the premise that the black man is God and that only 5% of the population knows their true divinity (with 85% blind, deaf and ignorant and the other 10% devils using their knowledge to control the 85%). As expected, most of his thought-provoking lyrics address prevalent 5% ideologies, such as the numerological fascination of Supreme Mathematics, breaking it down in layman's terms in a way that even the most clueless Islamic neophyte could understand.
The densely-packed layers of knowledge and science would likely prove overwhelmingly heady were it not for the imminently accessible grooves that back the tracks, which was always Brand Nubian's saving grace. From the sped-up Beatles bite that drives "Here Comes The Sun" to the Chicago riff that makes "Revolution" such a bangin' cut, nearly every song here has a groove that proves the spoonful of sugar to help the intellectual medicine go down. And with guest spots from some of the 5% Nation's most lyrically gifted proponents, including RZA, GZA, Raekwon and Grand Puba, rarely has religious doctrine proven such fascinating listening.
Capped by the blazing RZA assisted "Deep Space," the album never deviates from its Nation of Gods & Earths theme. From the incredible album art to virtually every song title, every bar and even the 90-page booklet that accompanies it. Jamar is obviously passionate and dedicated to his beliefs, and for the most part the education given here is interesting. But 21 tracks of lessons start to wear a bit thing at points. Still - easily-recommended listening.