A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders

No matter how crappy Hip Hop has gotten as a genre lately, I still hold out hope that it will come back…bigger and better than ever.  But lately the only thing I’ve heard that was even remotely good was the new Atmosphere records. (He really does release an amazing amount of material…and if you don’t know him I suggest you seek him out, maybe here?)

For a while, I had hoped that the DJ movement was going to bring it back.  I figured that DJ’s started Hip Hop and DJ’s would eventually save it as well…but even that hope has dwindled.   All we seem left with is Lil Wayne who, despite his obvious skills, just looks too silly for me to take seriously.  Kind of like a cartoon version of every rapper from the last five years smooshed together.

But as the mighty KRS-1 once pointed out “Rap is something you do…Hip Hop is something you live!”  So I figure those who love hip hop and want it back have to do something with our lives to bring it back to the forefront.

I doubt we’ll ever see an album like A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders” though, because one listen kind of makes all other hip hop albums pale in comparison.

Formed in 1988, they released five albums in ten years, with three being certified classics:  “People’s Instinctive Travels And the Paths of Rhythm,” the amazing “The Low End Theory” and it’s sister album “Midnight Marauders.”  After that it became obvious that the band was spent, both personally and artistically, with the last two albums getting progressively weaker.  But the shining pinnacle of their career was dropped in 1993, and became a high water mark for all other acts to reach for.

Following the success of “The Low End Theory,” the group was hard pressed to top it.  Yet, top it they did.  Building on the minimal jazz infused sound that had propelled “Low End,” the group finally went in a direction they had so far avoided…they added a little commercial appeal to their work.

While this is often a sign of a group selling out, in this case it simply made their sound that much more digestible to the audience at large.  “Marauders” also finds MC’s Q-Tip and Phife Dawg finally hitting their stride vocally, elevating their lyrics up a notch or two to the transcendent category. DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Q-Tip also pushed their sampling style, moving from dark jazzy to a decidedly funkier slant…but still keeping the flavor.  Not an easy task. The Wiki page HERE has a nice little breakdown of their samples, by song.

Yet as commercially viable as they were becoming, the group’s trademark of socially conscious lyrics was carried over…especially in songs like ‘Sucka Nigga’ or getting spiritual with ‘God Lives Through.’ But at it’s heart, “Midnight Marauders” is a party record, and it doesn’t skimp on backyard anthems like ‘Award Tour,’ ‘Oh My God’ (It’s Busta on the roof!!!) or one of my favorites ‘We Can Get Down.’  This is one of the first hip hop albums from the golden era that grabbed me all the way through, and still does to this day.  Their use of the ‘Midnigt Marauder’ narrator really pulls the album together nicely…which is great because the gimick could have fucked it up just as easily.

Will the Tribe ever make a comeback?  Maybe.  But their time is over, and we have to look to new faces to bring the kind of energy and flavor they did in 1993.  If only Lil Wayne had their kind of chops…

BONUS:  Check out Vincent’s post on THIMK for a full detail of all the artists that appear on the album cover.  Thanks for scanning that Vincent, so I don’t have too!


1 Response to “A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders”

  1. 1 vincentlopez
    September 10, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Glad I could help!


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