A song by song response to Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest
1. MaraudTour Guide
2. “Eric B. is President,” Eric B. and Rakim
3. “Do That There (Young Einstein Hoo Hoo Mix),” Lyrics Born
4. “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1),” Outkast
5. “Mr. Nigga,” Mos Def
6. “My Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me,” Geto Boys
7. “Sure Shot,” Beastie Boys
8. “You Got Me,” The Roots w. Erykah Badu
9. “MCs Act Like They Don’t Know,” KRS-ONE
10. “Oooh,” De La Soul w. Redman
11. “Get Em High,” Kanye West w. Talib Kweli and Common
12. “Bad Man,” Murs & 9th Wonder
13. “Deadly Medley,” Black Milk w. Royce Da 5’9” and Elzhi
14. “Triumph,” Wu-Tang Clan
Inspiration Album: Midnight Marauders – A Tribe Called Quest
1. Midnight Marauders Tour Guide
2. Steve Biko (Stir It Up)
3. Award Tour
4. 8 Million Stories
5. Sucka Nigga
7. We Can Get Down
8. Electric Relaxation
9. Clap Your Hands
10. Oh My God
11. Keep It Rollin’
12. The Chase, Pt. 2
13. Lyrics To Go
14. God Lives Through
Mix Challenge Liner Notes
My favorite album of all time is Low End Theory, by A Tribe Called Quest, but I would feel inadequate trying to counter it. The group’s next album, however, is considered their finest, and with good reason: A tight album of all three- and four-minute songs containing great hip-hop. Midnight Marauders is, quite simply, one of the best rap albums of all time.
In the spirit of a “response” album, I tried to match or best all of the songs with tracks that spoke to the spirit of the Tribe song in question. In addition, I lived up to the spirit of the lead single from the album, “Award Tour,” by having each track come from a group or artist from a different locale, including all five boroughs of New York (as well as Long Island, which is not a borough). Hence (in the voice of the Midnight Marauders tour guide), “the name of this album,” Maraud Tour.
One caveat: I also added in small cuts of the actual Tribe tracks, but I’m not quite practiced at the mixtape freeware I used, so please excuse the rough cuts.
1. Tribe song: “Midnight Marauders Tour Guide”
This is a simple introduction, so I just cut it down and replaced the words “Midnight Marauders” with “Maraud Tour.”
1. MaraudTour song: “MaraudTour Guide”
2. Tribe song: “Steve Biko (Stir It Up)”
One of the easiest decisions for the whole mix was the lead-off, as Tribe flatly says on the Tribe song “My favorite jam back in the day was ‘Eric B. for President.” Added bonus(es): Eric B. and Rakim are from Queens, Tribe’s home borough, so we begin where Tribe began; Rakim says “My man made a mix,” which I of course repeated at the end of the track.
2. MaraudTour song: “Eric B. is President,” Eric B. and Rakim
3. Tribe song: “Award Tour”
It is impossible to beat “Award Tour.” It is one of the finest songs in the history of hip-hop. However, the lyricism is not the greatest – Phife rhymes “sugar cuts” and “dynamite.” Seriously, Phife Dawg? Not the funkiest of the Funky Diabetic’s moments. So, I found a song with lyricism that easily defeats the track, though overall is lesser of a song. Added bonus(es): It salutes the biggest earworm on the album, Q-Tip repeating “Do dat, do dat, dodo datdatdat,” and brings our tour to the Bay Area, namely Berkeley.
3. MaraudTour song: “Do That There (Young Einstein Hoo Hoo Mix),” Lyrics Born
4. Tribe song: “8 Million Stories”
I love Tribe, but their story raps are not the best, easily defeatable with the likes of Ice Cube, Slick Rick, Notorious B.I.G., or any number of amazing rappers who can tell stories in rhyme form. For my response, I traveled to Atlanta to explain to Tribe the true art. Sadly, I could not find the single, which had Slick Rick on it.
4. MaraudTour song: “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1),” Outkast
5. Tribe song: “Sucka Nigga”
Q-Tip’s song about his conflicted feelings of using the N-word had a sequel, blessed by the Abstract himself, who appears on the response track, though doesn’t really rhyme. This is our BROOOOOOOOKLYN representative.
5. MaraudTour song: “Mr. Nigga,” Mos Def
6. Tribe song: “Midnight”
This is Tribe’s “dark” song, with Shaheed’s grimey beat matching Q-Tip and Phife’s tales of what it’s like at night in the projects. This song really helps the Tribe album by giving it some balance, but this is not what Tribe does best. A few boys from Houston did this best.
6. MaraudTour song: “My Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me,” Geto Boys
7. Tribe song: “We Can Get Down”
Oh man, this one was tough. Truthfully, this is nearly the epitome of two guys dropping ridiculous rhymes over a lively beat with a call-and-response hook designed just to get the mic from one man to the next. The biggest problem: I would respond to any other such track with the only song to do it better, “Check the Rhime,” by … A Tribe Called Quest. However, there is another option: going with a bigger crowd pleaser. Therefore, I travel to Manhattan (you’d be surprised how few hip-hop groups actually claim Manhattan) for every white girl’s favorite rap group living up to Tribe’s legacy.
7. MaraudTour song: “Sure Shot,” Beastie Boys
8. Tribe song: “Electric Relaxation”
Ah, the never-popular hip-hop album track that usually has somebody shouting “FOR THE LADIES!” beforehand. Tribe was one of very few hip-hop groups that could make a relaxed, female-friendly jam that doesn’t manage to repulse me. Again, the best response for this track is another Tribe song, namely “Bonita Applebum.” However, down the East Coast a bit in Philly is a group that has made a career of making female-friendly hip-hop that doesn’t suck, but in fact is some of the finest work in the history of the genre.
8. MaraudTour song: “You Got Me,” The Roots
9. Tribe song: “Clap Your Hands”
Ali Shaheed Muhammed shines on this one, a classic beat. Tip and Phife don’t shrink from the challenge, creating a tough track to match, with a beat that changes throughout the track to match the changing rhythm of the rhymes. I couldn’t mess around with this one, it had to be a matchup of amazing producer and legendary rhymesayer. Two words: SOUTH BRONX! Added bonus(es): Matches perfectly with the tour guide’s admonition that “most emcees don’t know what that term means,” which I added at the end; and begins with the words “Clap your hands!” Seriously, this was the most perfect match I found.
9. MaradTour song: “MCs Act Like They Don’t Know,” KRS-ONE (produced by Premier)
10. Tribe song: “Oh My God” (Busta Rhymes sample on the hook)
Hmmmm, A banging, “Get out of your fucking seats” song from the Native Tongues clique with an easily recognizable guest emcee performing the hook, which centers around the word “Oh.” This decision took about 5 seconds. STRONG ISLAND!
10. MaraudTour: “Oooh,” De La Soul w. Redman
11. Tribe song: “Keep it Rollin’”
One of the strengths of Midnight Marauders is that Tribe didn’t have to bring in guest rappers to create a legendary album. On Low End Theory, they had Brand Nubian and Leaders of the New School among their guests, but their is only one guest verse on Midnight, and it is a strange one: Large Professor, a producer not known for his rapping skills (that is a kind way to put it). His verse keeps this song down, so I counter with the most successful producer-turned-rapper in hip-hop history, by way of Chicago. Added bonus: Gets some more Brooklyn in there, both songs have titles that make them sound like weed songs, but neither are..
11. MaraudTour song: “Get Em High,” Kanye West w. Talib Kweli and Common
12. Tribe song: “The Chase, Pt. 2”
Truthfully, this is the weakest song on the entire album. Tip and Phife seem like they’re trying to make a song about how tough either finding a woman or life in general is, but can’t stick to the damn point and offer meandering rhymes with no high points. Shaheed is the only member who shines. To counter, I give you an L.A. rapper who can stay on point when discussing the perils of chasing ladies, with an N.C. producer who can match Shaheed beat-for-beat. Added bonus: Gets North Cackalacka and Compton on same track (see “Scenario” on Low End for reference).
12. MaraudTour song: “Bad Man,” Murs and 9th Wonder
13. Tribe song: “Lyrics to Go”
Oh man, this is what Tribe is all about – a beat that somehow manages to be funky and laid-back at the same time, raps that are both intricate and rhythmic. It’s a hard style to master, and Q-Tip passed it down to his producer protege, the late and great J Dilla. Jay Dee managed to spark a hip-hop renaissance in a destroyed American city, Detroit, which has unimaginably become a mecca for hip-hop since Tribe broke up. Think that’s hyperbole? Remember where Eminem is from. Anyway, J Dilla passed his sound down to one of Motown’s finest, Black Milk, who brings two of the city’s best emcees together on this funky head-nodder that has some of the sickest rhymes on record. Seriously, if you don’t like this track, never listen to rap again.
13. MaraudTour song: “Deadly Medley,” Black Milk w. Royce Da 5’9” and Elzhi
14. Tribe song: “God Lives Through”
You with me so far? OK, pop quiz: Which New York borough have we not visited yet on the MaraudTour? Uh-oh … what is that in the distance on this ferry .. oh god .. oh no … THAT’S SHAOLIN! Added bonus: I have triumphed.
14. MaraudTour song: “Triumph,” Wu-Tang Clan
Leftovers: City I feel the worst for having left off this mixtape is Minneapolis/St. Paul. Atmosphere, Brother Ali and the whole Rhymesayers crew deserved a spot on here, I just couldn’t find one. I feel two other groups deserved to make it: Cunninlynguists and Dilated Peoples. Just didn’t happen. Tribe drops a lot of names on this album, but I felt basing my decisions on those references – beyond the easy Eric B. and Rakim cut – would cheapen the experience, so those artists (Tupac, EPMD, etc.) may have had a strike against them. I welcome feedback.