The Midnight Marauders; the name is dark, sexual, mysterious and gives off a sort of stupid brilliance. For me the name of A Tribe Called Quest’s third album is very much similar to A Tribe Called Quest’s music. They are the quintessential good guy rappers, three Brooklyn boys with the will to revolutionize. With The Low End Theory Q-Tip and the boys blended the lines between jazz and rap so thin, it was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. Then Tribe once again revolutionized jazz rap with the 1993 release of TMM by eliminating the boring elements and throwing in an entirely danceable dose of West Coast beats. The production is pure brilliance, the flow is so smooth you won’t believe it’s not butter. The style? Pure ATCQ.
Bass; the weapon of choice for producers Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Q-Tip, and the instrument that defined much of nineties Hip Hop. Though Shaheed’s upright technicality is no longer the spotlight many song’s beat, he throws a salty lick into many a MM track. The bass loop in Sucka Nigga is an instant highlight, it’s catchy, dark and smooth, everything jazz needs (or wants to be) to be. The fretwork on We Can Get Down is another highlight. The bass is hidden under a heavy boom bap beat, but accents everything Q and Phife have to say (from their musing on their past drug use to their current social workings). But as far as production goes the obvious example of everything ATCQ stand for is the album’s single Electric Relaxation. The beat is (surprise!) relaxed and very tonal bit of drumming, with bass and calm, cool electric piano on every other measure. For the first time on the album Phife’s rhymes almost overpower the lyrical might of Q-Tip. The lyrics, if obvious enough, chronicle a journey through the minds of two very horny young black males. This brings me to my next point.
The flow; Phife and Q trade it off like it’s nothing, but their playfully cocky lyrics say differently. Lyrically, Tribe are very standard (in content at least), rapping about the ever powerful “booty”, their personal skills (i.e. makin’ love to the mike) and life on the streets. But it’s how they work subjects together through beautifully crafted phrasing that makes Quest so special. Q uses words not normally found in any hipster dictionary, to talk about the things that make normal life so great. Picking a lyric to call my favorite would be almost impossible, as would be describing the feeling I get from this type of rap, so I’ll turn it over to my man, Q-Tip (from the incredible freestyle, Lyrics to Go)
Formulate your rhymes like a child forms Play-Doh (right)
Calm and serene like the study was tayo
Poetry machine with correct mechanisms
Immune to disease I defeat organisms
that are waitin in my path, I overstep the critters
Give your ass the willies and your moms'll get the jitters (uh)
Midnight Marauders also has a very striking quality missed in today’s music, the very potent trade-off. Very often Phife and Q will trade off rhymes in the very same verse, and without making a big deal about it. With bands like Three Six Mafia, the trade-off doesn’t feel nearly this natural, this fun or this brilliant. Overall not much more needs to be said, besides maybe GET THIS NOW. A Tribe Called Quest are amazing, and this record is a classic. Not a dull track, and plenty of highlights, 5/5 for sure.
My favourite Tribe album, definitely a 5/5. Everything on this album is perfect, from the rhymes to the beats.
I actually don't really like Arrested Development that much. Their latest album was pretty crappy
I've never heard in my life Arrested Development being better than ATCQ and probably never will again....because that's pure insanity.
This album is as classic as it gets for me, favourite ATCQ and top 10 favourite for hip hop albums of all time for me. Electric Relaxation, 8 Million Stories, Oh My God, so many tight tracks on this one and the beats are great.
As much as I like Arrested Development I feel like they're still sub par to most 90's hip hop and definatly aren't on the same ground as ATCQ especially considering that ATCQ was very consistent in making great albums while Arrested only had the one really good album which somtimes is too feel good to still be good if that makes any sense to anyone else other than me.
Midnight Marauders is one of, if not the greatest hip hop record of the 90's. Personally i think it fused jazz and hip hop better than any other album before or after it. I still listen to this all the time, a masterpeice.This Message Edited On 06.16.07
The whole Arrested Development comparison is just foolish - those guys were nowhere near as complex or smooth as Tribe. Q-Tip's use of such obscure and fitting vocabulary in his rhymes is what sets him apart as an MC, not to mention his almost supernatural feel for a track's rhythm and flow. He always knows when to start, speed up, slow down, and downright stop altogether and let the music speak for itself.
As far as Midnight Marauders goes, I put it a notch below People's Travels and on the same level as The Low End Theory. More importantly, though, Tribe is the shit, and a perfect example of the potential that hip hop once had as a form of creative expression and artistry.