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Grand Puba feat. Sadat X: Play It Cool (Elektra, 1995, 2000)

There’s a long list of ’90s rappers that we all felt like should have had bigger careers. It’s hard to say Grand Puba “missed out” given 1) he made a successful turn from a so-so group (Masters of Ceremony) to heading up one of the most important groups of the early ’90s (Brand Nubian) and 2) turned that into a pair of solo albums on a major label, all within barely half a decade. Yet Puba, like many other contemporaries, felt overshadowed once the rise of Biggie/Nas/The Wu changed the veritable landscape. 2000, which was a good, but not stellar album, was his last hurrah as a solo artist and I often think of this album through the lens of “what might have been.”

In any case, “Play It Cool,” was, for me, one of the last times Puba dropped a track that I thought was unqualifiedly great. Not only did it feature an ace Minnesota track – nice “Synthetic Substitution” chop! – but it also reunited Puba and Sadat X, coming hot on the heels of the “I Like It” remix.

365 Days of Soul, #86