February 19, 2009

Reader Review: A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders (November 9, 1993)

(For today’s Reader Review, KidChaos decided to tackle what is easily one of my favorite hip hop albums ever, A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders. This disc is the reason why I love Tribe so goddamn much. To celebrate the occasion, I found an alternate version of the album cover, with different faces in the background. (For those of you two that actually care, the version I own is the one with the red border.))

I'm going to assume the readers of this blog have already read Max's write-up for Midnight Marauders (and if you haven't, just do it already), so I won't repeat anything he already mentioned. Most critics believe that this is Tribe's most complete album, with the perfect blend of production and lyricism, to which I would reply, "Yup."

This is Tribe’s best album in my opinion (I guess we already know how the write-up will end), and another opinion of mine is that Phife Dawg more than holds his own on this album. I know Q-Tip is everyone's favorite, but personally, I feel like Phife spits the most hip hop quotables on Midnight Marauders, and I’m not talking about crappy freestyle quotables from punchline rappers, either. Anyway, let's get into this great album...and I do mean great (on my list it’s the 9th best album of all time). (As long as number one isn’t anything by Lil’ Wayne or Plies, I’ll be okay.)

Although I do like the fact that these are consistent throughout the album and think it was kind of funny to use elevator music in the background (by the way, are you two sad to hear that the company that created Muzak is going bankrupt? I feel bad for anybody that might have lost their job, especially in this crappy economy, but…does anybody even really like Muzak?), the part of this that bothers me is that the voice is soooooooo slowwwwwwwwwwwww...but, anyway, it could started worse. (I thought the slow voice added a nice contrast to the hurried pace of the majority of the tracks on here. Then again, I have a short attention span.)

You see, this is what I was talking about: Phife Dawg starts off with what appears to be a chorus but flips it right into a line, wasting no time on making an impression on this album. Not only that, but although he regularly earns chuckles with his lines, Phife got an audible laugh out of me with the line "height of Muggsy Bogues/complexion of a hockey puck" the first time I heard this, and that's pretty hard to do (because KidChaos is a robot). Do you know what I just realized? Other than one line, this song has absolutely nothing to do with Steve Biko (an anti-apartheid revolutionary) (nah, I'm not that smart: I had to look that up) but who cares, since this song kicks ass.

Some of the smoothest production ever created. I don't think I've ever played this for someone and had them not like it. You don't even have to be a hip hop fan to think this is a great track.

For anyone who thought that Phife could only write non-sequitur one-liners, here's an in-your-face from the man himself. It's cool to hear Phife get a little more serious on a (solo) song, and the mellow (yet still perfectly smooth) production fits the mood perfectly.

5. SUCKA N---A
This may just be me, but this is one of those songs where, if you're listening to it and someone who doesn't like hip hop (like, say, a parent) walks by at the wrong moment and hears you listening to it, they will say "Wow, nice language" and say the n-word 238,479,328 times to try and prove a point. (That last statement makes KidChaos sound like he’s about fourteen years old, but if he’s listening to A Tribe Called Quest, I have to applaud the man’s taste.) And it will bother you. Oh, the song? I'm going to go against Max and say this is the worst on the CD. I was bored with Q-Tip's first verse and then...what to my wondering eyes should appear? Not a miniature sled and eight tiny reindeer...it's the same goddamn verse again!

The production on this is downright cool, and Q-Tip tries to apologize (to me, anyway) for the last track with some great lines. I love the line "You would swear Redman was inside the trunk". I feel like I'm understating the production on this CD. But that's because I don't like reusing words and the only word for Midnight Marauders is smooth. I love the production: none of it wears on you after multiple listens (except “Sucka N---a”. I have no idea why it's on A Tribe Called Quest's greatest hits CD). (I just re-read my own post and realized that I also used the term “smooth” when describing certain aspects of this track. Weird.) (More parentheses: here’s something I just learned. This song featured Raphael Wiggins, better known to you as Raphael Saddiq, although I can’t recall anything he would have been doing on the track, but I just confirmed it in the liner notes. This was years before “Get Involved”, his collaboration with Q-Tip, with the video that had everybody walking around with televisions on their heads. That’s actually a pretty good song: I think I’ll track it down right now.)

This is more like it. Still light, upbeat, and smooth production (there’s that word again), but this time with more of an edge, due to the scratching. Phife Dawg has some timeless bars, such as, "Too many candy rappers seem to be at the top / But too much candy is no good so now I'm closing the shop". Remind you of anybody? (Actually, it does remind me that Phife Dawg is a bonafide psychic who predicted the rise of a certain rapper whom I will not name. Moving on to a different no-name rapper: do you think Tribe, or at least Phife, got to share the Grammy when “A Milli” won last week? I mean, his fucking voice is all over that song, and the rumor is that Lil’ Wayne and his producer, Bangladesh, had to pony up over half a million dollars for use of the obscure Tribe vocal sample.)

My friend once told me "If you don't like “Electric Relaxation”, you're a stupid dumb-head". He is correct. (His friend was me.)

A-ha! Max is right! There is a “Nautilus” sample hidden on every hip hop song ever! Also, the horns during the chorus remind me of Big L's "Street Struck", but I looked it up and I can't find out if it’s the same sample. All in all, a solid track, although it's one of the more boring (both solid and boring?) on the album because Phife Dawg doesn’t have any lines that stand out and Q-Tip couldn't continue the magic from “Midnight”.

I love this song. I don't (want to) know how Phife Dawg discovered how hard 2 day old shits were, though. Make sure to switch to the next song right after they stop rapping, or you’ll have to sit through roughly 2 hours of the same Busta Rhymes vocal over and over and over (kind of like the end of this sentence).

I didn't expect Large Professor to hold his own, but he did pretty solid on this track, especially considering that he's more of a producer than he is an MC. For the first time in, well, ever, Phife lets me down by quoting fucking Barney the dinosaur. Why?!?!

Phife makes up for the last track with an almost laughable bar about doing calisthenics with Ali Shaheed Muhammed. I know I talk a lot about Phife, but like I said before, I feel like his improvement behind the mic is the reason Midnight Marauders catapulted beyond the rest of Tribe's albums.

Offense to anyone who takes it because, come on, you're a nancyboy if you take offense to someone else's musical opinion (unless it’s this kid who told me "Lil’ Boosie would eat Nas". (Because he’s a cannibal. Get it?) That almost started a well-deserved bout of fisticuffs), but I feel like this song is similar to those from T.I. or The Game, in that it doesn’t impress or blow me away, but it's not a bad song: it's just there. (I have to disagree, but I like the fact that he worked in the term ‘nancyboy’.)

Phife again provides the best verse over some interesting production. He uses the late-in-the-bar snare to full effect, changing his flow and hitting the beat perfectly. "Walk past MC's like that girl did the Pharcyde". I love it!The Busta Rhymes vocal from "Oh My God" returns but, somehow, I'm not tired of it yet. I didn't even mind Q-Tip humming for like eight bars: that's how good of a mood this album puts me in. Q-Tip's verse is kind of boring though.

(The following is a bonus track off of European versions of Midnight Marauders, which helps to explain why I didn’t review it the first time around.)

I don't like this song, so I'll just pretend it doesn't exist and not count it against the album. I also don't know how this made the Tribe's greatest hits CD. (On the contrary, I think the song’s alright. The beat is bouncy, in a good way, and while the lyrics have a lot to be desired, it’s a pleasant enough diversion. I don’t understand why this track was only released in the U.S. on the Boomerang soundtrack, though (at least, until the greatest hits album KidChaos was referring to).)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Like I said before, I have Midnight Marauders as my 9th favorite on my list of hip hop albums. To those of you who failed math (or kindergarten), let's ponder that for a bit: in my ears (some goofy imagery, I admit), there are only 8 albums I have heard that are better than this. So now for those of us without cognitive skills, what does this mean?

BUY OR BURN?: Buy. That's all I have to say.

BEST TRACKS: Everything except "Sucka N---a" and "Hot Sex", and "Lyrics to Go" if I'm in an especially bad mood. Yes, this album's that good. (Yeah, it really is.)


(Likes or dislikes about the review? Leave some comments below. And, if you’re so inclined, be sure to read my original post.)


  1. This is definitely one of the worst reviews I've ever read on the internet. You should really think twice before posting uninformed, poorly written drivel like this.

  2. Interesting Read, nonetheless. I would agree with you in some pints more than others, but their one place we certainlty cannot see eye on. Lyrics to Go is an OK song??!!! But if this is true, then I s John Q's blog of the same name just there? (actually, don't answer). Anyway, interested Hip-Hop-Is-Read.

  3. Loved this review. Not too many big words and hilariously honest.

  4. yeah this kid was definitely 14 and a douchebag

  5. Cal Tjader is most certainly not elevator music...

  6. AnonymousMay 17, 2011

    "Elevator music", Cal Tjader? Right ...

  7. Mr. KidChaos, I throughly enjoyed your review despite not agreeing about this album's place as the best tribe album (Low end theory alllllll day!). I'm interested however as to what are these 8 mystical albums you think are better than this? Just interested as I respect your opinions after reading this. Thank you!

  8. AnonymousMay 25, 2014

    So... Electric Relaxation is one of your favourite songs ever but you don't own the copy of Midnight Marauders with the green border? Poor Max, poor.