After Brand Nubian’s debut album, One For All, Grand Puba left the group but stayed on the same label (Elektra) to pursue a solo career, which was pretty much inevitably. Puba, with his top-notch flow and polished delivery, was easily the breakout star of the group. He would release his debut solo album, Reel To Reel in ’92, which didn’t do great numbers wise, but did get love and respect from the critics and fans, alike. He would return in the summer of ’95 with his sophomore solo effort, 2000.
On Reel To Reel, Puba handled the bulk of the production, but for 2000 he would relinquish those duties, letting Mark Sparks, Minnesota and a few others take care of those responsibilities so he could focus solely on his rhymes. 2000 would produce two singles, but much like its predecessor, it didn’t do well commercially. Unlike Reel, 2ooo wasn’t unanimously embraced by the streets and it received mixed reviews from the critics. I haven’t listened to 2000 in a long time, but I remember diggin’ it back in the day. But I may be a bit bias, considering I was a Puba Stan and all.
In ’95, 2000 was Puba’s clever way of saying he was a few years ahead of the game and his contemporaries, which is now mind boggling, considering the year 2000 was 20 years ago. Time is truly, illmatic.
Very Special – Puba kicks off 2000 with a soft and mellow Mark Sparks produced instrumental, as he warms up for the evening, giving us a taste of his wittiness and effortlessly slick flow.
I Like It (I Wanna Be Where You Are) – This was the lead single from 2000 (it was also included on the Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 video game soundtrack). Mark Sparks steps it up a bit with this one, as he concocts a creamy smooth backdrop and adds splashes of ruggedness over it. Puba uses the sonic beauty to bless us with more of his charisma and nearly flawless flow.
A Little Of This – Kid (from Kid ‘N Play) joins Puba on this one, singing the hook with our host and adds a few adlibs. Puba spills some of my favorite Puba rhymes on this one: “I’ve gotta be one of the baddest brothers on the planet, I’m baggin’ honeys and they all got bodies just like Janet, I play it safe never takin’ chicken heads for granted, I’m superman and Lois types my rhymes at Daily Planet, I got more promise than Thomas who makes English muffins, I do more stickin’ in chicken than Stove Top Stuffing, no doubt about it hun, I hit from here to China, when I drop the D-minor, watch me soggy your vagina”. Mark Sparks’ instrumental is dripping with feel good vibes and makes for good morning music to get your day off to a great start.
Keep On – I never really cared for this one back in the day and I still don’t. Puba does his thing on the mic, but Chris “Shuga” Liggio’s spacey loop is kind of dull and brings down the song’s momentum.
Back Stabbers – Our host invites vocalist, Michelle Valdes Valentin to join him on this one, as they commence to freak this duet like Ashford and Simpson, kind of. Puba and Michelle play a couple going through some trying times in their relationship, when Michelle lets Puba know that his best friend isn’t who he thinks he is. The storyline was okay, even though the end was anti-climactic. It feels like Puba was trying to recapture the magic he and Mary J Blige created with “What’s The 411?” and Reel To Reel‘s “Check It Out”, but Miss Valentin is not Mary and this song isn’t nearly as memorable as those two. Mark Sparks’ airy mid-tempo backdrop was enjoyable, though.
2000 – Minnesota gets his first production credit of the evening as he slides Puba a dope instrumental to destroy for the album’s title track: “I’m the Scooby with the Doo, I like my philly with a brew, all you niggas talkin’ shit about Puba – fuck you! You know what you can do? You can lick the twins, when I pull them outta skins, and I put ’em your face, you can tell me how it taste”. Definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.
Amazing – Minnesota comes right back with another dope instrumental, as he samples The Brothers Johnson’s “Tomorrow” and turns it into a soulful groove for Puba to continue to get busy on: “My beats kick you in the head like a Timberland, me and my crew stay tight like the X-Men, I gets mean, and then I turn into the Wolverine, and then I grab the mic and blow the whole spot to smithereens, I gets down for the money honey, I got the style that’s real, that’s why brothers chew my shit up like gummy bears, it’s the New York shocker, representin’ like a Knickerbocker, watch me get it cookin’ like Betty Crocker, I’ll make you choke like I’m indo smoke, cause I’m downright nasty like Diet Coke”. Minnesota and Puba make sure this one lives up to the song title.
Don’t Waste My Time – Alamo lays down a sophisticatedly sexy backdrop that Puba uses to issue a warning about messing with scheming groupies: “Honey set them traps, that’s why Tyson was where he was at, they want you for your name and fame, quick to get butt naked, when you play them out, they run and said you tried to take it”. It was nice to hear Puba temporarily get away from freestyle rhymes and focus on a topic, and the music behind him fits his content, perfectly. This one has aged well.
Play It Cool – Puba reunites with one of his Brand Nubian bredrin, Sadat X on this one. Both of the New Rochelle emcees spit a verse over Minnesota’s funky piano loop, vibrating bass line and rough drums. Like he did on One For All, Puba raps circles around his old friend, but it was still nice to hear them back together. I wonder how Lord Jamar would have fared over this up-tempo beat. This one sounds way better than I remember it back in the day.
Playin The Game – The song feels incomplete and like it was thrown on the album just to fill space. I kind of like the Barry White loop, though.
Change Gonna Come – Puba wraps up 2000 by giving the listener some gems and food for thought to chew on: “Some think respect is an uzi or tech, but when they steal your intellect, it’s like a rope around your neck…that’s the 2000 tricknowledge, that’s the shit you won’t learn in college”. Dante Ross provides our host with a melodic backdrop dripping with serious vibes, making for the perfect canvas for Puba to paint with his conscious brush. And remember: “A gat don’t make you a man, cause a man made the gat”.
After revisiting 2000 these past few weeks, I can partial understand why the reviews for 2000 were mixed. Grand Puba picks up where he left off at on Reel To Reel, delivering witty punchlines and sharp word play with his effortless refined flow that is severely underrated, by the way. But like I’ve mentioned in the past, Puba has never been super strong on the conceptual side, so a Puba album can easily start to sound like one long freestyle. The production on 2000 is also a lot more polished than the dusty boom-bap found on Reel, which I enjoyed for the most part, but I know a lot of east coast hip-hop heads don’t appreciate. 2000 is far from a classic, but in my opinion, it’s a solid sophomore effort from a great emcee, who at one point I had in my top ten.