If you recognized the name in this little headline, let's just get this out of the way: Yes, Brand Nubian is still around. Or rather, since the inception of this original paragon of conscious hip-hop excellence, the group has only periodically faded away and reappeared. There has never been a breakup per se, although these days you're most likely to see them rocking throwback-type events such as the Tuesday-night party at Mansion. And, yes, Mansion is probably the last place you'd consider a bastion of quality golden-age hip-hop, but in recent weeks the superclub's Rewind Tuesdays has booked acts such as Black Sheep and even MC Lyte. Go figure.
It's been more than a decade since this quintet — MCs Grand Puba, Sadat X, and Lord Jamar, with DJs Alamo and Sincere — last entered the Billboard 200. That was back in 1998, with their fourth studio album, Foundation. But the group has released two records (albeit with several-year gaps in between) since then, 2004's Fire in the Hole and 2007's Time's Runnin' Out. And the classic jams still stand up in 2009. "Slow Down," from 1990's One for All, remains one of the most danceable cautionary tales for females. "Word Is Bond," from 1994's Hold On, is a sweet reminder of a time when bright brass, not cold synths, dominated beats. The list of Brand Nubian greats goes on, and Puba and company's flows remain distinctive and commanding. Stay up late on a work night and remember why you loved hip-hop.