Judging by forum posts and user comments on well visited hip-hop sites, Lord Jamar is today mostly seen by younger listeners as some old, angry commentator on the culture, making videos on non-entities like Macklemore and Iggy Azaela. While I agree that the amount of time and energy Jamar puts into raging about such issues doesn't put him in the best of light, but it hardly overshadows his musical career. He has of course been an important part of hip-hop culture since the late '80s as part of one of the best bands of all time - Brand Nubian. It was however first in 2006 that he debuted as a solo artist with the release of "The 5% Album"; an album that I get the impression a lot of people are still sleeping hard on. Striving to enlighten listeners on the spiritual beliefs and culture of the Nation of Islam, or the 5% Nation, as originally thought by Clarrence X, the project is a concept LP that's filled with heavy jewels and headbanging throwback beats. Fans of Brand Nubian's earlier work will definitely feel this one, and to me it's a lot stronger than their final LP, 2004:s "Fire in the Hole". Lord Jamar has a strong, deep voice with a lot of authority in it, and he delivers his lines with a crystal clarity that commands listeners to really take what he's saying into consideration. That is not to say that it's a perfect album by any stretch as there's some beats that just fall flat, and over close to 70 minutes things can get a bit repetitious on the lyrical side as well.
However when it is good, it's usually great, especially when the production is handled by Preservation or Lord Jamar himself who both provides the album with a majestic feel through deep, dark soul samples and thumping boom bap beats. The guest emcees are all members of the 5% nation, and includes Wu-Tang members such as RZA, Raekwon, Prodigal Sunn, Popa Wu, and both remaining Brand Nubian members Grand Puba and Sadat X. Stand-outs include the hypnotic "Deep Space" with RZA, the deeply soulful ghetto story "The Corner, The Streets" with Puba, the Shaolin soul of "Same Ol' Girl", and the LP closer "Greatest Story Never Told" where Jamar truly gets to shine as a lyrical storyteller. Another interesting joint is "Young Godz", where Jamar passes the torch to the next generation as the sons of GZA, Jamar and Ol' Dirty Bastard gets busy on the mic (a similiar track appeared on Masta Killa's second album); even the production is handled by Young Justice (GZA's son) and it ain't no joke. A nice touch is that the CD edition comes packaged with a 90 page book documenting the history of The NOI and Clarrence X / The Father Allah. If you want to learn about the meaning of the 5% nation while hearing some heavy hip-hop music, definitely check out "The 5% Album" if you're not familiar with it already. Made as a promotional documentary about the making and meaning of the album, Babygrande released "The 5% Documentary" which you can view above split into two parts. You can purchase the 2xLP set, CD and stream the entire album officially here.