Midnight Marauders

Midnight Marauders

A Tribe Called Quest helped give rap music a new sound and attitude on albums like 1990's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm and 1991's The Low End Theory, where the quartet's casual cool, jazz-heavy sample crate, and free-wheeling experimentation contributed to the nascent movement eventually dubbed "alternative hip-hop." Their third album, 1993's Midnight Marauders, may not be as influential, but it could be their most beloved. Released the same year as Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the Wu-Tang, KRS-One's Return of the Boom Bap, and Black Moon's Enta Da Stage, the album was perhaps the lushest and funkiest in a movement of technically proficient, rhythmically propulsive, purist-friendly rap music taking the art form back to its hard-hitting New York roots. Tribe’s melodies still chilled in that mellow nexus of ’70s jazz, funk, and soul—think Roy Ayers, George Duke, Minnie Riperton, and Weldon Irvine—but their drums cracked and knocked like they were made to blow headphone speakers. Hit singles like "Electric Relaxation" and "Award Tour" (the group's highest charting song to date) represent the album's commitment to calm demeanors, rugged beats, and pop savvy. The group continued the conscious streak that made them rap legends: "Sucka Nigga" is rapper Q-Tip's complicated thesis on the politics of using the N-word, which had been going through the process of being reclaimed by fellow rappers. But the album's most iconic lines were giddy fun that set them apart. Though there's no shortage of Phife Dawg gems here, few can top this boast from "Oh My God": "Mr. Energetic/Who me, sound pathetic?/When's the last time you heard a funky diabetic?"

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