So today we go back to our weekly series dedicated to naming the top ten-est rap albums of all time.Â I picked the ten albums I wanted to feature in advance.Â Since then I have been listening to them pretty non-stop which has lead to many of them being second guessed, removed, and shuffled around.Â Today’s record was originally slated in the number two spot, but the more I listened there was just no way I could justify putting it above the albums to follow.Â
A Tribe Called Quest was one of the best groups of the 90s.Â THey have also become one of the groups that annoying white people that want to discuss hip hop but have no real grasp of the culture cling to.Â They are like Cypress Hill minus the weed or the Beastie Boys minus the nasally NY jewish voices.Â Additionally Tribe reached a creative zenith that neither of these groups came close too….fuck anyone who says Paul’s Boutique was this or that.Â The MCing sucked so the album isnt good.Â It would have been better suited as an instrumental album, but sadly that trend didnt really take off till years later.Â
Midnight Marauders was the high water mark of creativity and artistry for the group from Queens.Â It also marked the first time that Phife Dawg wasnt a complete liability.Â That said Phife is also the reason for the albums drop from number two to number 5.Â There was just no way i could put an album that he shared lead vocal duties above say, Illmatic, which was originally in this slot.Â
Midnight Marauders is the most complete work from the group, it was the moment all the key elements came into their own, with the exception of Jarobi who came into his own by no longer appearing after the groups first album.Â The scope of their content moved from very hip hop centric concepts like Buggin Out and having The Jazz to more universal topics like romance,Â the experience of a young man in the city and even just everyday problems one faces in their life.Â Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s production was cohesive throughout and wasnt limited to just the obscure jazz samples that made Low End Theory a landmark album that has ultimately aged poorly.Â The production is thick and lavish and creates a mood that ties the album together from start to finish.Â Q-Tip while not displaying the same level of craftmanship in Low End Theory offers a more complete performance combining content, flow, voice and lyrics to help him reach even greater heights as an mc.Â The guest appearances are not frivolous and include a top notch performance from Large Professor, getting booth guest vocal and guest production credits on Keep It Rollin and chorus appearances from Trugoy and Busta Rhymes onÂ Award TourÂ and Oh My God respectively.Â The album also spawned two undeniable hip hop classics the aforementionedÂ Award TourÂ and Electric Relaxation which ended up on every mixtape I made for my lady friend that year.Â
I think most would agree that Midnight Marauders is the magnum opus for one of the genre’s most creative acts and remains as poigient and fresh sounding today as it did back in 1993.
Personal note: I went to SUNY New Paltz and this album circulated the campus for about two months before its actual release.Â Albums that also leaked that school year and made the rounds were Black Moon’s debut and Nas’ Illmatic.Â So I guess leaked records were not just a symptom of the internet age.Â
Links for the previous entries: