My Favorite or Just The Best?? A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders

As I was scrolling thru the albums that I have from the 90’s I became inspired by a certain group. The group is called A Tribe Called Quest and Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad are the members. Now the year is 1993 and the Tribe is coming off a very successful Sophomore album, The Low End Theory. With commercial success with hits such as Check The Rhime and Scenario, many wondered if The Tribe could maintain their artistic integrity while serving the fans with something flavorful. November 9th 1993 was their moment of truth…

Midnight Marauders hit the stores and a new story begins in the group’s book of life. I have been listening to the Tribe for a while and peeping the talent that each artist in the group brings to the table. I remember there was one time in my life when I was just obsessed with their music because it was so different from what I had in my catalog at the time, that I went nuts and just purchased all of their albums at one time. I remember starting with the People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm and slapping it in my discman. That album was so something else, it wasn’t until The Low End Theory that I was like DAMN these guys got the funk in them. I remember having their Scenario song on repeat day in and day out. Buggin Out and Jazz (We Got) were on something else as well, I couldn’t really figure out what these guys were about.

When I got to Midnight Marauders I knew that there was something that I had been missing when it came to listening to these guys. Why were people on their nuts for? Was it because of Q-tip’s jazzy and funky productions? Was it Phife Dawg’s comedic verses with clever twist? Or was it because of the mystery surrounding who is Ali Shaheed Muhammad? As soon as I pressed the play button on my disc man and I looked at the cover of the Midnight Marauder’s album it was evident why so many people loved these guys…

Midnight Marauders Tour Guide
It sounds like a recorded flight attendant is speaking to you about what you should expect while listening to the album or taking a trip thru the artists’ minds. She makes you feel comfortable and keeps your grounded. The elevator music in the background is soothing. The format of it all is formal but the words she spoke push you to be on edge for anything that could happen. Conceptual is the word to use here.

Steve Biko (Stir It Up)

The horns come in warming it up while Phife Dawg comes in reppin for Queens. The production is tender and not too heavy, even though the bass rides the melody perfectly. “yo I take it back, I’m the indian giver“, “honey tell your man to chill, or else you’ll be widow” it’s lines like that, used in a conversation format, that make Phife Dawg a respectable MC. Right out of the gate you can hear the back and forth nature of Q-tip and Phife. The drums are so subtle which brings a calm nature to the song but causes the listener to bob his/her head continuously because the way it mixes with the strings.

Award Tour

I would have to say after listening to the first two songs, the reasoning for people loving A Tribe Called Quest is Q-Tip’s production, which is shooting the gun off too early but fair in a way. But as soon as Phife Dawg comes in on Award Tour you can see that it’s more to this group than just funky jazzed based beats. Phife Dawg speaks on the haters before their success and the instant dick riders now. This is truly an international jam. Guess what?? It’s the third track and you will still be moved to dance along with the music.

8 Million Stories

It’s best to peep the lyrics of this song. Smh. How does one make a song about a day in the life of themselves while lacing in some comedy but the situations that occurs are so relevant. Ohio Player’s Over The Rainbow and Bola Sete’s Bettina samples help to push a beat that just captures the listener by trapping them in a web of various pitch strings. The end of the song basically sends you into a spiral.

Sucka Ni#@a
This is one of those tracks that everybody has bitten off of now. Q-Tip drops knowledge throughout his verse mixed with some ambition to attack the haters. The production is so blues inspired that you would of thought B.B. King, Lonnie Johnson, and Muddy Waters were in the studio helping them make this track. This was the first time that I heard Q-Tip refer to himself as “The Abstract”, or it was the first time that I really noticed. So far every verse sounds like a conversation between Q-Tip and Phife or between the listener and the artist, which will keep you entangled for the whole album. I especially love the words spoken by the machine at the end of the song. One thing that I have noticed in Q-tip’s productions from their first album to this album is that the way Tip uses cuts and scratches is smoother than DJ Premier does. Premo’s pieces are very blunt and hit you in the face, while Tip’s technique is like walking on water. “You’re not any less of a man if you don’t pull trigger, you’re not necessarily a man if you do“. Knowledge bone!

This is a nice song and I feel that the drums contain the same nature as the drums in Illmatic. I couldn’t imagine what the mood in the studio was like when this track was being put together. The title of the track really captures the feel of the song. It’s not too calm and it’s not too energetic. It’s like the quiet before the storm. The guys in the background are yelling but you don’t notice it instantly, you have to let your ear fall victim to the contained chaos of the production. The feature at the end of the song really touches on what was (and still) going on at the time in communities around the world with AIDS. Informative and Conceptual.

We Can Get Down

I would have to say that this song sounds like it belongs on People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm because of how the chorus goes. It doesn’t really fall into the tracklist of Midnight Marauders that good. It may sound like I’m being negative but this song doesn’t hurt the ears I’m just saying it doesn’t really match with the times. You be the judge.

Electric Relaxation
What more can I say? A classic song. The mood is bananas and the persona of every artist featured in the song is smooth.

Phife Dawg: “but hone you got the goods, like Natalie Wood
Q-Tip: “or we can do it like Uncle L and swing a L in my Jeep

Clap Your Hands

I like how the keys in this song start out high then kind of fade a little bit. “if I ever went solo, my favorite MC would be me“….Phife. I have to give it to Phife on this track for his approach and the attitude he possessed in this song. He displayed mad confidence in his verse and when he said his rhymes he said them like he cared what no one thought about it. Hands down, kudos to Phife Dawg the 5 Foot Assassin for his verse.

Oh My God

I’m not a big fan of this track because of the beat mainly. It kind of brings down the vibe of the whole album to me. Something sounds off here. Phife Dawg again did his thing and kept me listening to this song. “I like my beats hard like 2 day old shit” LMAO. I would have to say that I prefer the remix to this song over the original version. Listen to the original and then listen to the remix. Them drums and the bassline just take the song to another level even though they kind of take away from the verses.

Keep It Rollin
Another song that pushes the album into the listener’s face. Keep It Rollin is so mellow that if you had this album on full play you wouldn’t notice that it was included in this album.

The Chase, Pt.2
Goodness, immediately your head starts to move with that scratch. The drums are sooo hardcore in that part. The Chase Pt.2 is basically another story song. I like how they used a raw cut in a calm song. That part is so crazy nice to me. Kudos to that Biz Markie – Nobody Beats the Biz

Lyrics To Go
I just want you as a reader to do one thing now…..listen

That guitar is soooooo crazy isn’t it? If you disagree please go to your lawnmower, turn it on, and stick your head in the blades. Smh Say No More. This was made in 1993, put that in perspective please.

God Lives Through
That sample of Oh My God is crazy funky. The bass in this song just hits so hard that you’ll have no choice but to play this song again because your head doesn’t want to stop bobbing. “my style is milk, nigga you would have thought that I was breast fed”…lmao Phife.

At the end of the day (and the beginning of tomorrow) I believe that this is A Tribe Called Quest’s best album. It’s conceptual, it flows together good, the productions are ahead of their time, each artist displayed a talent that no other group could have gathered. What helped this album the most? I’m not sure. But I know the funky jazzed laced beats didn’t hurt. You could pick a few songs off this album and play them and compare them to a few songs off their previous albums and tell that there was a big difference. There was a change! Was this an experimental project? May have been. It was intellectual to a point, comical for sure, and contained substance related to the downplay of that particular generation in the society at the time. The cuts weren’t as raw as the first two albums but the way they were placed together in this album was done way more formal. Intentional? Maybe or maybe not. Now here’s the big obstacle that I believe the Tribe conquered where others failed. Did the group fall into the happy go lucky mainstream category upon release of Midnight Marauders due to the pressure of their commercial success? Nope they maintained their foundation. Their verses focused on what was happening in their everyday life and what happened in their past. They avoided the glitz and glamour while not giving into the guns and drug flooded verses as other artist, at the time, did. They played within the white space very well on Midnight Marauders. I see Midnight Marauders as a transition for the group. One could say that they there thought of when people spoke of Naughty By Nature, De La Soul, Ultramagnetic MC, and other similar groups. After the release of Midnight Marauders I would have to say that the aforementioned groups would be thought of when people spoke of A Tribe Called Quest or they might not have been thought of at all. I consider Midnight Marauders to have been ATCQ’s unique identifier.


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