Dare I proclaim Midnight Marauders to surpass The Low End Theory as A Tribe Called Quest’s best work? Yes, I dare!
It all started a few weeks ago, when I was chatting with Akira, and without provocation declared A Tribe Called Quest to be the official music of the fall. Akira did not debate that, because IT IS UNDEBATABLE! However he did impart…
That’s just crazy. Or is it?
Yes! This deserves further analysis. Insightful, in-depth, and lengthy analysis…
Too late! You know me, and you know what I’m capable of. You’ve brought this upon yourself.
And so I shall. But don’t be too jubilant, for I may very well prove you wrong!
And that’s just how these things get started. Now let us all agree that music tastes are subjective, and just because I prefer one album, it doesn’t mean that the other is without merit. It just means the only opinion people should be subjected to are mine, and that the album I prefer is superior, for mine is the superior judgement!
SOME BACKGROUND PERSPECTIVE
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was a masterpiece, weaving a mellow ’n melodic tapestry which the likes our ears had never heard up to that moment, providing but a purview of how deep into the crates the sampling efforts of Q-tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s production could and would go. But a many rap group could never follow up a sensational debut with the same aplomb. Could ATCQ deliver another solid LP?
Let’s call it what it was — Peoples Travels for the most part was a Q-Tip solo joint, or at least it sure felt that way. A year later, The Low End Theory hit the racks and started off well enough, but it was especially the second track that showed ATCQ could indeed take the proverbial IT to the next level and squashed any fears of a sophomore slump, as “Buggin’ Out” showed the full emergence of Phife as an MC. In addition, the selection of singles “Check the Rhyme,” “Jazz,” and “Scenario” were much stronger than “El Segundo”, “Can I Kick It” and “Bonita Applebum” from Peoples Travels, and alone surpassed everything ATCQ had done before.
Midnight. Marauder. Monster. The year was 1993, and hip-hop’s golden age was coming to a close. On one end of the spectrum you had a bevy of pop tripe that, caught-up and discarded by MTVs fickle catering to an even fickler audience. On the other end, an emergence of studio tuffs, who just a few years previous worried how a parental advisory sticker might damper their prospects for radio play, had now gone full-on with profanity and villainous pretenses as they experienced skyrocketing record sales. In between all this was A Tribe Called Quest, just steady delivering intricate rhymes for the true hip-hop heads like me, Akira, and our boy Jelani. We were A Tribe Called Williamsburg — A, B, J, and sometimes G. We got to have an early taste of Midnight Marauders by catching a show during the album’s pre-release promotional tour.
Yes they were. But I won’t let fond memories sway my opinion! It’s time for the tale of the tape. Heh heh get it? Cuz back in those days, you had to actually head on down to a record store, dig in your pocket, mull on how to extend your dollar, and choose whether to buy an album on CD or tape. You see, cassettes were a format that used a reel of plastic tape to send the audio signal to ohhhhh never mind… read a book, you damn millennials!
The Low End Theory (1991)
Verses from the Abstract
Vibes and Stuff
The Infamous Date Rape
Check the Rhyme
Everything is Fair
Jazz (We’ve Got)
Midnight Marauders (1993)
Midnight Marauders Tour Guide
Steve Biko (Stir It Up)
8 Million Stories
We Can Get Down
Clap Your Hands
Oh My God
Keep It Rollin’
The Chase, Part II
Lyrics to Go
God Lives Through
THE FINAL VERDICT
9 WHOA 5 WACK
10 WHOA 4 WACK
It’s close, but the numbers don’t lie. Midnight Marauder takes the crown by a hair!
The highs on The Low End Theory are MAD high, but the gaps are more frequent, and the fondness for “Check the Rhyme” and especially “Scenario” make people forget the frequency at which these lulls occurred, whereas Midnight Marauders enjoyed longer streaks of interrupted musical goodness.
Do you question my assessment? If you doubt by findings, then go back and play both albums, which frankly you should have already been doing! If you need to be told to listen ATCQ then you’re beyond help. Do you need me to tell you to tell you to brush your teeth too? You nasty basta—Begone! Y’all sicken me…