Thursday, October 18, 2012

5 Best Tracks by A Tribe Called Quest

Hey YO!

Not to long ago I saw a documentary! No dumb shit though about penguins or whatever, this one was about hip hop. And it was good!

"Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest" is the too long name of the movie I mentioned in the previous sentence. It got me thinking about the impact that A Tribe Called Quest had on my life personally. They were a major part of the soundtrack of my youth. In fact, the #1 song on this list would most definitely be on the soundtrack of my life. OF MY LIFE, SON.

One of our goals for this blog is to publish more positive shit. So we decided to pay tribute to the Tribe (because being positive is SO Tribe). My first thought was this list, the "5 Best Tracks" that Tribe ever made. Then, I thought that a lot of people had probably already done that. I also realized that the best five songs would also be the most commercial songs, because Tribe just worked like that, and this blog is dedicated to unearthing underground shit, not promoting major record company releases (no matter how good they are).

In the end I realized that the "5 Best" was the way to go. Sure it had been done before, but who cares? Those other blogs don't have this dumbass intro. And the fact that the 5 best would all be big hits, also, who cares...they were hits because they were slamming from the jump. Think about that: radio hits that were actually good.

So, here it is, the 5 Best Tribe Called Quest songs ever made with no surprises:

5. "Check the Rhime"
The Low End Theory, 1992

On Point
The song is born in chaos. It starts with nasty horns and sticks with them long enough to make you hate them. Then BOOM, suddenly smooth jazz and it sounds so crisp. Then we are treated to a back and forth between two of the most gifted MCs ever to do it: Phife and Tip, and they rip the shit out of this beat, and they sound so laid back that you'd think they were relaxing on the beach (of Linden). So cool. I want to mention that the change ups are what push this song into the "best ever" category. The switches between those nasty horns and the mellow beat are ill. ALSO I want to mention the bass - when it drops at about the twenty second mark, it's like a kick to the chest. Perfect. It's tough to believe that there are four songs that I consider better.

"now heres a funky introduction of how nice I am.
Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram"

4. "Scenario"
The Low End Theory, 1992

Never on the Left
I'll admit that Phife and the chorus wrecked this song and pushed it to number 4. But besides that, this song is amazing for being a posse cut. If you don't know, this song came out as a showcase for the Leaders of the New School (a component of the Native Tongues, Tribe's extended recording family), who are also dope.

The first thing that strikes me about this song is the mad sinister beat. Then Phife, who is "first up to bat" attacks Bo Jackson and basically sets up the next guy to fail. But the next guy doesn't fail, he comes correct. In fact, everyone comes correct on this shit and makes for a dope song. I guess I should also point out that Busta Rhymes had his major debut on this track, and he does a good job. But his quick back-and-forth with Tip seals the deal. Boom.

"Causin rambunction, throughout the sphere
Raise the levels of the boom, inside the ear"

3. "Can I Kick It?"
People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, 1991

Before this did you know what live was?

If you've never heard this song before just press "play" on the video and you'll know how it made the top three in about 2 seconds. Hint: it's the beat. A heavy break over the top of that laid back shit. Amazing. Honestly, this has got to be one of the best beats ever made. Mad scratching, mad change ups. They even crank up the organ.

Then we have the raps. HOLY SHIT. This is a great song to see the differences between Tip and Phife. Tip flows smooth on the beat, and the song is like ice. Then Phife comes in with the second verse and his shit is fire. He brings the energy and handles the beat completely differently. Fire and Ice shit. Dope.

2. "Electric Relaxation"
Midnight Marauders, 1994

Relax yourself

How can anyone top "Can I Kick It?"? How about some Electric Relaxation

I'll start with the beat. It's hard to believe that I usually hate jazzy beats yet these beats are some of my favorites. Tribe just does it right.

I've heard this song a million times, and I think the thing that really makes it is the little twinkling sound effect that drops in every now and then (I think it comes from here at the 5:05 point). That shit is weird on this track, but it sounds good on the final Tribe cut:

Let's not forget about the rapping. Once again, it's fire all they way trough. I think Phife's line about furniture is known by just about everyone everywhere. It's world famous. But don't sleep on Tip, he might not have any unforgettable line, but his shit is together. Plus, the chemistry between these two is just classic, it makes the song and pushes it easily to number 2. The video has them rapping like they are talking in a taxi and at a restaurant, and it fits the vibe of this song perfectly. I'm sure these guys will be friends forever.

1. "Award Tour"
Midnight Marauders, 1994

Mario Andretti onthe MoMo

Ah. Number 1. A song that I've heard so many times that I could spit it in my sleep. This song was first introduced to me (before the album came out) on some weird mixtape that I got from one of my friends. The mixtape was mostly Masta Ace tracks ("Born to Roll" etc.). It was really a good mixtape and it was literally a mixtape since it was on a cassette tape. I played this song constantly. I love the beat. It sounds so large and at the same time it's so laid back. The way the beat drops with that steady build make me want to punch out a window. I think that the instrumental alone would have put this song in the top five.

Amazingly, the lyrics and the chorus are good enough to go over this perfect beat. Sure the chorus is basically a "listing shit" beat, in this case destinations for the Tribe Award Tour, but it gets lifted with the mentin of Ali (Muhammad my man) and the fucking insane "Mic in hand" rhyme. That's the way to lay a chorus, assholes.

Them we have Tip lay his best verse. I mean ever. Each rhyme is like a work of art. The "build mics in my workshop class" is classic. Mario Andretti? SHIT. Then we have this, which might be one of the best things on wax:

See my shit is universal if you got knowledge of dolo or delf or self,
see there's no one else
Who can drop it on the angle, acute at that
So, do that, do that, do do that that that (come on)
Do that, do that, do do that that that (OK)
Do that, do that, do do that that that
I'm bugging out but let me get back cuz I'm wetting niggas

What is that. It's amazing.

Now for Phife. If you've read this whole post the you've probably guessed that I am huge fan of Phife behind the mic. He lays out how he came up (simply slid in the place). Then he outlines his skills (Dynomutt Status (holy shit)). And sends you to St. Elsewhere.

This track is the total package. The best of the best. Born to Roll.

One last thing. I'm usually not a fan of rap videos, but this one is great. It matches the "fun" of the Tribe, while at the same time setting a perfect mood. From the cepia tone, to the constant motion, to the location (the Unisphere in Queens) enhance the song.

IN CONCLUSION: I'm sure readers of this blog have heard all of these songs many, many times. Listen to them again. If you don't know about Tribe, check them out. This is a list of five good songs out of about thirty (honestly), and if I had time I could expand this list to a Top 10 and the list would still be ill. Tip is an amazing producer. Phife is an amazing MC. It's a perfect combination. Go buy some Tribe music. #Salute.




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