He made his debut as Grand Puba Maxwell with the group Masters of Ceremony. Its album Dynamite (1988) was hailed by critics, but because of lack of sales, the group soon disbanded, and Puba emerged as the lead emcee of Brand Nubian. After their innovative and versatile debut album One for All (1990)—covering areas from reggae-influenced hip hop music to new jack swing—Puba left the group after disputes with its other members and embarked on a solo career. He became a member of the group again around 1997, recording a few tracks for various soundtracks leading up to the full-length album Foundation in '98. In 1999, Puba and group mate Sadat X performed on the track "Once Again" on Handsome Boy Modeling School's concept album So... How's Your Girl? Following the group's 2004 effort Fire in the Hole, a rejuvenated Puba appeared on tracks with Beanie Sigel ("Bread and Butter," also featuring groupmate Sadat X), Missy Elliott ("My Struggles," featuring his onetime collaborator Mary J. Blige), and Ugly Duckling ("Something's Going Down Tonight").