Friday, December 16, 2011

90's Hit Parade #7

A Tribe Called Quest w/Leaders of the New School - Scenario

In my humble opinion, the best ensemble rap track ever recorded. You've got a nice, mid-tempo beat, slow enough for the MC's to have space to let their personalities come through, but energetic enough to pack a dance floor, and a good party-anthem chorus bookending the verses, basically the ideal set-up for a posse cut. And each rapper brings some great rhymes that showcase each one's own personality.

"Scenario" features all the members of A Tribe Called Quest and Leaders of the New School passing the mic, and each one of them brings their A-game, but still sound like they're just having fun. Take Phife, for example, and how he effortlessly flows back and forth between fast and slow patterns, often within the same line, such as the way he builds a three-syllable pattern then suddenly breaks it, cramming "Well whadyaknow?" into that space in the third line. It's not just that the technique is so hot, but also that it's totally Phife's, that odd, choppy rhythm that is his alone.

Or Charlie Brown, who comes with an aggressive rap that he punctuates with percussive syllables: "Can I get a hit? (Hit!) Boom-bip," or "New York, North Ca-ka-la-ka and Compton." Dino D's verse is all complex tongue-twisters, culminating in a rush of one-syllable blows: "Funk flipped flat back first fist foul fight fight fight
Laugh yo how's that sound (ohhhhhh!)" And then Q-Tip comes on, totally relaxed. He doesn't try any kind of verbal gymnastics, but his flow just hits your ear right. If you look at the video, you see it on his face. He's just the most laid back dude in rap, and that smiling, sunshiney vibe flows through his rhymes: "I love my young nation, groovy sensation/No time for hibernation, only elation"

Obviously, Busta Rhymes is saved for the finale. Who wants to follow a verse like that? He comes in and tears up every goddamn thing around him, and it sounds even crazier when it's contrasted with Q-Tip's relaxed style. A lot of Busta's verse is nonsense, "UH!'s" and "ROOOAWRR!'s," and he sells the fuck out of all of it, until he kicks the track home to the chorus.


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