Lord Jamar

Members of Nation of Islam offshoot the Nation of Gods and Earths (a.k.a. the Five Percent Nation) often point out that their movement is a social one, not a religious one. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a current album that's preachier than the solo debut from Brand Nubian's Lord Jamar, The Five Percent Album. It is virtual propaganda, a recruitment portfolio that unfortunately doesn't live up to the similarly themed but tons-more-fun X-Clan and Brand Nubian records that came before it. The beats here are plodding (no funky drummers), the arrangements are anemic, and the sped-up samples are dull ("Here Comes the Sun," anyone?). Since the Nation of Gods and Earths is built on the premise that only five percent of men (all of them nonwhite) are enlightened enough to be divine beings who know the true ways of the universe, there's no divide between righteous and self-righteous on Five Percent. Throughout 21 tracks, Jamar tells us he is smart (whether he's out to "civilize the savage" or railing against material-obsessed rappers' single-mindedness). However, he fails to realize that everybody needs an editor. Even God. — Rich Juzwiak

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Rich Juzwiak