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

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RIP Phife Dawg – Favorite Verses: #5 – “8 Million Stories”

A day in the life of the Funky Diabetic

phife-dawg_10190399-portrait-article_4col_fix_widthThe Phifer doesn’t get enough shine for his storytelling abilities. He’s not Slick Rick or Nas, but his flow is hyper, funny, original, and usually a fresh alternative to Tip’s more laid-back style.

Phife (as well as Q-Tip) have “solo” tracks on most ATCQ albums1; “8 Million Stories” just edges out “Butter” as my favorite of these “Phife only” cuts.

Phife, in his everyday man role, weaves a tale of robbery, shopping, and sports over a sick sample of Bola Sete’s “Bettina”.

A Tribe Called Quest – 8 Million Stories

RIP Phife Dawg – Favorite Verses: #6 – “The Infamous Date Rape”

A great rapper gone too soon.


He was the Everyman to Q-Tip’s cerebral abstract vibes, bringing in pop culture references and grounding the group for the streets.

-Andre Torres, Executive Editor, Genius

A few years ago, a guest pastor came to my church to give a sermon on Joseph and his 11 brothers. As the story goes, Joseph was despised by his brothers (because their father, Jacob, favored Joseph over the others). One day, in a jealous rage, they brothers toss Joseph into a pit and fake his death1.

The pastors point was as follows: most of us try to relate to Joseph, when in reality, we are more like the 11 brothers.

I thought about that sermon when I heard about the passing of Phife Dawg – one third (or fourth, if you count Jarobi) of A Tribe Called Quest. Q-Tip was the smooth one – with the cocoa-brown skin, tall frame, and perfect words for the ladies. When I recite Tribe verses, I imagine that I’m Q-Tip…. but in reality, I’m more like Phife. Q-Tip was the abstract one. Phife was the realist. Q-Tip took you to the edges of the universe with a smooth flow and sideways thinking. Phife kept you grounded on earth with the realities of life.

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Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #1 The Internet’s For The World

theinternetband-640x360[1]I keep saying that I want to make a list of the best intro verses in Hip-hop and R&B; verses that grab you from the jump1. Whenever I get to that list, Syd tha Kyd’s first bars on ‘For the World” will definitely be on it: “Cigarettes and sex on your breath, I guess/It’s cool, I’m the same, the way we kiss.” Syd, Matt Martians, and the rest of the band don’t waste time getting into the groove of this song – there’s no wasted intros or spoken verse.

Ego Death is The Internet’s most complete album yet. On this LP, The Internet is now a full band, giving the album a full and complete sound. The new additions don’t take away from the quirkiness of their first releases, instead, it makes most of the tracks feel structured and fully thought out. Syd’s also gone another level as a writer and singer. She’s still as transparent and intimate, but has more confidence in her vocal abilities.

I love just about every track on this album (it’s my favorite album of 2015); the James Fauntleroy-assisted “For The World” barely beats out “Gabby” as my favorite track. I’m still not sure what “For The World” is about: it’s part love song, part Natural Born Killers, part protest song, and all groove (and a great groove at that).

The Internet’s For The World (featuring James Fauntleroy)

Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #2 Kendrick Lamar’s For Sale? (Interlude)

kendrick-lamar[1]What’s been said about Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly has most assuredly already been said: Complex. Ambitious. Avant-garde. There are days when I can listen to it on end; other days, the weight of it makes me turn to something else.

There is one track, however, that I can ALWAYS listen to: Kendrick’s “For Sale? (Interlude)”.

Lucy is all the [things] that I was thinking of that I know can be detrimental to not only me but the people around me, and still be tempted by them. That’s some scary s–t. It’s like looking at a bullet inside of a gun, knowing you can kill yourself with it, but you’re still picking it up and playing with it.
– Kendrick Lamar, as quoted in the Guardian

When I was in college, I struggled to make it to Sunday service. Part laziness, part distance – it just wasn’t a priority for me. That being said, there were days that I needed a word from God. When I was in those moods, I didn’t turn to typical gospel or Christian hymns – I put on John Coltrane’s Love Supreme. His ode to his higher power spoke to me (and still does) in a way that no gospel recording ever has.

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly isn’t a Love Supreme, but “For Sale?”, speaks to me in a similar way. A morality play in verse, “For Sale?” tells of the temptations of “Lucy” (short for Lucifer) and the promises of material things and the fight to stay true to yourself. Its a struggle I believe we all face and I love Kendrick for being so transparent about it.

“Alright” and “These Walls” rightly get called out as great cuts on To Pimp a Butterfly; I just want “For Sale?” to get it’s requisite shine too.

Kendrick Lamar – For Sale? (Interlude)