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
Tip starts off the track on a smooth flow, reminiscent of “Bonita Applebum”. 45 seconds later, it takes a hugh detour, with a bombastic intro from Phife:
I like em brown, yellow, Puero Rican or Hatian
Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation
Told you in the jam that ‘We Can Get Down’
Now let’s Knock the Boots like the group H-Town
You got BBD all on your bedroom wall
But I’m Above the Rim and this is how I ball
A pretty little somethin on the New York street
This is how I represent over this here beat
Talkin bout you
Phife has a lot of memorable lines, but as verses go, this might be the most well known (or at least in the top three, along with his intros on “Scenario” and “Buggin’ Out”).
The highlight, though, comes in Phife’s final turn on the mic – “Bust off on your couch, now you got Seaman’s Furniture”. I never understood his furniture reference, until the Beastie Boys explained it in the documentary1. It’s a perfect reflection of Phife the MC: witty and braggadocious.