"Oh My God" is a banger from an album that is filled to the brim with them. A Tribe Called Quest's third album, 1993's Midnight Marauders, frequently comes up whenever hip hop heads are trying to determine which of their projects should be considered their finest, often appearing side-by-side with their sophomore album, The Low End Theory. For the record, I used to think it was a toss-up, but have since come out in favor of Midnight Marauders, as not only is it a much more accessible version of the conscious storytelling they've been peddling for years, it also includes what is one of my favorite songs of all fucking time, "Electric Relaxation", so.
A Tribe Called Quest, made up of rappers Q-Tip ans Phife Dawg, along with their deejay Ali Shaheed Muhammad (I'm fairly certain Jarobi had dipped out at this point), currently sits as my second favorite rap group of all time. (Three guesses as to who's number one.) They've certainly seen a number of their songs remixed in the crew's lifetime: "Oh My God" is simply one such instance. It's definitely the only time they ever recorded a track where guest star Busta Rhymes's contribution is limited to merely repeating the titular phrase during the hook, with an occasional "yeah" thrown in between. Some may argue that this was a waste of potential, but I would argue that Q-Tip and company knew exactly what they were doing in limiting Busta's animated personality on the song.
Lyrically, "Oh My God" is merely an exercise in outright hip hop superiority, as most rap songs usually are. Q-Tip and Phife Dawg spit more than their fair share of shit-talking, resulting in Phife's verse being censored even on the dirty version of Midnight Marauders due to a bit of out-of-character homophobia (and even more out-of-character for Tip, who makes it a point to mouth the censored lyrics in the song's official video, so that was weird), which makes the entire operation highly questionable. However, if you didn't know what Phife was saying (as I didn't until I researched the track for this article), you would have enjoyed this song just fine, so I'm sorry for ruining it for you, especially since even the group thought they had crossed a line, which is why it's censored in the first fucking place. And before people start chiming in about my stance against homophobia in hip hop: just give up now. You're not going to win any argument here. I'm sure Q-Tip and Phife Dawg would even admit that there was no need for that shit on "Oh My God".
The twelve-inch single for "Oh My God" includes a reworked version from Tribe that seems to have taken cues from the Midnight Marauders track "Lyrics To Go" in way of its sound: it's far more chill than the album version, although that doesn't mean that the drums don't knock hard, because they do. Busta Rhymes remains on hook duty, which is still hilarious to me, while Tip and Phife's verses over this jazzy, space-y instrumental remain the same, right up until the end of Kamaal's' third verse, where Phife spits what was originally his rhyme partner's last bar, leading into some additional lyrics from Q-Tip before the song itself ends. Granted, this remix was created, as most remixes are, to sell product, so Tip's bonus bars amount mostly to advertising Midnight Marauders (he repeats the album's name no less than five times), but it's hard to complain about that. Phife's censored bar actually makes an appearance on some versions of this remix, so if you're a Tribe stan like myself, you've probably heard it already. But anyway.
Curiously enough, Tribe allowed another group entirely to record over the remixed "Oh My God" beat. The New York City-based Know Naim, whom I know next to nothing about, deliver strong-enough performances, spitting far more curse words than what can be found on every Tribe album combined, probably, and yet this particular version doesn't necessarily sound more "street" than what Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad came up with originally. This remix is found only on the twelve-inch and CD maxi-singles for "Oh My God", and make for an interesting curiosity, although it hardly counts as a remix: this was essentially a favor Q-Tip did for Know Naim, who would move on to do nothing, apparently. (When I was younger, I was convinced that Know Naim was just Tribe themselves playing around with their voices, and I haven't shaken that theory entirely as of yet.)
GO WITH THE O.G. OR THE REMIX? Honestly, they're both pretty good. You'd do well with either one, but I suppose the album version has a bit more abrasive bite to it. Speaking of which, I've included the official video below for your viewing pleasure.
EDIT: A few readers reminded me of the existence (thanks for that, by the way) of another "Oh My God" remix, subtitled "UK Flavor Radio Mix", which was a version released only in the United Kingdom remixed by producer Tosh. I should have included this in the original article, because I remember that song, barely, as being essentially a jazzy bridge between The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders, but the weird thing is, I can't find a clip of the track to embed into this post. In researching that mix, I also came across three more remixes of "Oh My God", all also UK exclusives (is that the only Tribe song you guys like over there? I'm asking for a friend): the "Red Eye" mix, the "Master" mix, and the "Organ" mix, the last two handled by CJ Mackintosh, and the first also fiddled with by Tosh. I have a CD single somewhere with these mixes, but until I eventually find it or determine that I sold it many moons ago, if any of you two have any more information, or better yet, a link to listen to the fucking things, I would appreciate it. Until then, I still stand by the album take.
A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders (review)