Review #201: Midnight Marauders, A Tribe Called Quest

#201: Midnight Marauders, A Tribe Called Quest

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the Tribe. Their sophomore album, The Low End Theory, is all the way up at #43, but it’s pretty cool that its follow up is still on the top half of the list. Even cooler, as the RS blurb points out, is the fact that this was released on the same day in 1993 as Enter The Wu-Tang, which is listed at #27.

I’ve decided that Nineties era rap is my favorite kind. It walks that weird line between smart and badass, and it takes itself extremely seriously. Plus, it was before samples were lawsuits waiting to happen. Speaking of, when are they putting De La Soul on Spotify??

This was mixed in Phife Dawg’s grandmother’s basement — Q-Tip had a key and everything. I have a lot of sympathy for artists who create a masterpiece early on in their career and then have to somehow keep creating. Everyone is going to compare everything you do from now on to that masterpiece. But the Tribe managed to make this one just as sweet.

I’m also obsessed with this album cover. There were three different versions of it released, and in total they feature over fifty different people, not just rappers. Also notice that the painted woman from The Low End Theory reappears!

FAVORITE SONGS:

“Midnight Marauders Tour Guide” — Jive secretary Laurel Dann is this computerized voice — I mean, tour guide. I love these clever asides she gives. How do I get this job?

“Steve Biko (Stir It Up)” — This title confused me until I did a little research — it references “Stir It Up,” a very chill Bob Marley song, and anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who wrote a bunch of articles on the subject under the pseudonym Frank Talk. It’s a great song, and I read a really great analysis of it on AV Club, which I highly recommend!

“Award Tour” — So many references on this album, and so many samples. It would be impossible to literally list them all. My personal favorite on this one (which was released as a single) is to Dynomutt.

“8 Million Stories” — Phife talked about how they intentionally didn’t clean up their samples, because they liked how it added to the ambiance.

“Sucka N****” — From the phrase “sucka M.C.,” which basically means a crappy rapper. But it’s also a meditation on the N-word and its usage in Black music. I’m telling you, Nineties rap is the smartest kind of rap!

“Midnight” — Possibly my favorite sample included on the album, from “Psychedelic Shack” by Albino Gorilla.

“We Can Get Down” — It is, indeed, like that.

“Electric Relaxation” — This one has a delightful story — Phife Dawg and Q-Tip each wrote their own verses, then traded and rapped what the other wrote.

“Clap Your Hands” — Samples “Handclapping Song” by the Meters.

“Oh My God” — NOT the Usher song that was censored to “Oh My Gosh” on the radio. (America is so odd.) Busta Rhymes is doing this hook, which was itself inspired by the Tribe song “Scenario,” also featuring Busta.

“Keep It Rollin’” — This one had all my favorite lines on it, including Don’t come around town without the hip in your hop. Also, there’s a brief Barney the Dinosaur reference????

“The Chase, Part II” Damn Phife you got fat! That line made me very sad, because Phife eventually did succumb to his Type I diabetes. I do love the Biz Markie sample here though.

“Lyrics To Go” — This guitar riff is a James Brown sample, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what it’s sampling!! Anyone have a clue? And the sustained high note is actually a sample of Minnie Riperton singing “Inside My Love,” which is just genius.

“God Lives Through” — Samples “Oh My God” off of this very album. The drums are from a Christine McVie (yes, of Fleetwood Mac) song called “And That’s Saying A Lot.”

LEAST FAVORITE SONGS:

Nineties rap can do no wrong.

IS RS FULL OF IT?

This album references two separate children’s television shows. What more could you want?

Review #200: Diamond Life, Sade

Review #202: Homogenic, Bjork

Writer, fake music fan.