Another dose of hip-hop style today, with the next album from A Tribe Called Quest, “Midnight Marauders”. Like their last album, “The Low End Theory”, it is mostly a very soothing mix of low-fi, jazz-based beats that are very easy to listen to. It was also highly regarded and well received, and is rated as album #201 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Because this exercise is often about comparison, I can’t help but compare it to yesterday’s Wu-Tang Clan album, as well as “The Low End Theory”. With regards to Wu-Tang Clan, I think it all boils down to mood. Most of the time, I think I would naturally gravitate to the more relaxed vibe of A Tribe Called Quest, particularly when lead MC Q-Tip is on the microphone. I really love his delivery. Overall, I don’t think I loved this album the same way I did their last one, but every artist has to deal with following up a massive hit, and they certainly did a respectable job here to say the very least.
When going through this record to pick out the songs I liked best, without even knowing it, the three I picked are the three songs they released as singles. “Electric Relaxation” is my favorite, it just exudes a real warmth not often found, and it samples the song “Mystic Brew” by jazz organ player Ronnie Foster, which I will have to check out next. “Award Tour” was their biggest hit from the album, and it also is remarkably listenable. “Oh My God” is quirkier and more unusual, especially the repetitive chorus that surfaces in the second half of the song, but like an infectious commercial jingle, it effectively invades your brain until you find yourself wanting more.
The album opens and connects tracks with a computer-generated female voice track, offering messages of logic, morality and common sense. My favorite is “You’re not any less of a man if you don’t pull the trigger, you’re not necessarily the man, if you do.” Gangster cliché perhaps, but I think it carries a fair amount of meaning beyond its original intent.
A Tribe Called Quest remains one of my favorite acts in the hip-hop world, and a full consideration of this album only furthered that belief for me. I didn’t cover their debut album from 1990, but I can’t wrap things up without also citing my favorite song I have always enjoyed, “Can I Kick It”, which samples “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed. I highly encourage you give all of it a proper spin as you build up your hip-hop playlists.