My Favorite Albums: OutKast’s Aquemini

aquemini-558a0696ab9efI spent the summer and fall of 1998 as a college intern at a research facility in Columbus, Ohio. I was at a real crossroads – my grades from the fall of 1997 and the spring of ’98 were not good1. I was focused on all the wrong things, and I was hoping my natural ability would allow me to get by.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, so I made the hard decision to take a semester (Fall 1998) off from school.

Looking back, it was one of the best decisions in my life. I was away from school and away from friends. I was expected to show up to work on time and to be prepared when I showed up. I had to pay my bills on time and budget.

I was able to align my priorities. I started taking better care of myself.

That’s one of the reasons I love Aquemini. It was the soundtrack to that season in my life. I loved jams, I loved the beats, I loved the lyrics. Dre and Big Boi were maturing from  Southernplayalistic… and ATLiens. I was maturing, too. Continue reading “My Favorite Albums: OutKast’s Aquemini”

RIP Phife Dawg – Favorite Verses: #1 – “Check The Rhime”

_88917865_f28f58d1-b452-468d-b112-3d8c3450916f[1]Johnathan Davis and Malik Taylor.

The Abstract Poetic and the Five Foot Assassin.

Q-Tip and Phife Dawg.

The greatest MC duo ever.

Better than Run and DMC (because of the way ATCQ traded and intertwined verses). Better than Andre and Big Boy (who built on “the Player and the Poet” mystique created by Tribe). Better than Black Star (only because of longevity).

The special thing about the Tribe MCs was that their personalities were so different and complimentary, which allowed them to achieve a near perfect balance of heft/levity, styles, and tempo. This relationship was highlighted when Phife and Q-Tip traded lines mid-verse (like “Electric Relaxation”) or handed off the mic (see “Vibes and Stuff”).

The gold standard example of their symbiotic relationship is “Check the Rhime”. Backed with a laid-back sample of Minnie Riperton’s “Baby, This Love I Have”, Q-Tip and Phife effortlessly alternate taking lead, building on their shared story (growing up in Queens).
Continue reading “RIP Phife Dawg – Favorite Verses: #1 – “Check The Rhime””

RIP Phife Dawg – Favorite Verses: #2 – “Scenario”

phife_curl“Scenario”, the closing track from The Low End Theory, is one of the greatest posse cuts of all time1. Featuring Leaders of The New School, Scenario is probably most well know for Busta Rhymes’ catchy, quotable, energetic final verse.

In order for a track like this to work, your lead off hitter has to set the tone early and often. Phife more than accomplishes this, balancing playfulness, boasting, and “hardness” (not “O.G/thuggish hard”, but “booming”… if that makes sense ). From the call-and-response start, through a string of cliches, to one of Phife’s most memorable lines (“…to show you where I come from”), Phifer KILLS it. It might be the one time where Phife out raps Q-Tip.

A Tribe Called Quest – Scenario

RIP Phife Dawg – Favorite Verses: #3 – “Buggin’ Out”

Phife establishes himself as a peer to Q-Tip, allowing ATCQ to go to new heights.

v0064131_posterframe_putpat_large[1]Phife was a bit of an afterthought on Tribe’s first album; in fact, I think he was only on 4 tracks on People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Their second release, The Low End Theory, starts out with the Q-Tip featured “Excursions”…. so I thought it would be more of the same (Q-Tip’s rhymes with some dashes of the Phifer).

I knew I was wrong 8 seconds into the second track on the LP. Phife comes out H.A.M. on “Buggin’ Out” 1. Like I mentioned in the #4 post (“Electric Relaxation”), this is easily one on Phife’s most memorable verses.

Yo, microphone check one two what is this
The five foot assassin with the ruffneck business
I float like gravity, never had a cavity
Got more rhymes than the Winans got family

The video takes his verse to the next level. The 5-ft Assassin, in a canary yellow sweatshirt and “bug out” eyes, KILLS it.

And yes, Phife, I agree – riding on the train with no dough does “suck”.

A Tribe Called Quest – Buggin’ Out

RIP Phife Dawg – Favorite Verses: #4 – “Electric Relaxation”

The best (worse?) advertisement ever for a New York based furniture company

I finally got around to watching Michael Rapaport’s excellent Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest a few years ago. I think it made me sad more than anything else; I hated seeing the drama and infighting between my favorite rap group.

I almost turned it off; I’m glad I didn’t, because I would have missed the explanation behind a line in my favorite ATCQ track (“Electric Relaxation”).


First, a little about “Electric Relaxation”; I love this track. It’s my favorite track off my favorite rap album. It might be my favorite hip hop tune of all time. It’s got all the elements:

  • A great hook (Tip’s “Relax Yourself Girl, Please Settle Down”)
  • Killer beat from Billy Brooks by way of Raphael Saadiq
  • A ying and yang flow between two polar opposite MCs

Continue reading “RIP Phife Dawg – Favorite Verses: #4 – “Electric Relaxation””