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Eric's Top 100 Tuesdays errrr….Thursday??? (77-79)

by Eric on July 20, 2007

77. A Tribe Called Quest-Beats, Rhymes & Life

Ya’ know, if there is only one word that best described A Tribe Called Quest’s 4th LP “Beats, Rhymes & Life it would surely have to be “underappreciated“. Looking back on this album, you’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t feel just a bit disappointed once “Beats…” hit the shelves and soon after that your nearest boombox or tape deck. I mean, following three CLASSIC albums (“People’s Instinctive…”, “The Low End Theory” & “Midnight Marauders”) is no easy feat. For example, let’s take a look at Ice Cube’s discography, first you had “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” followed by “Death Certificate” and then “The Predator”. Following “The Predator” things started to unravel with Cube’s fourth release “Lethal Injection”. Don’t read into this too far just yet, “Beats, Rhymes & Life” was no “Lethal Injection” which is quite favorable for Tip, Phife & Ali (A,E,O & Sometimes U…the “U” in this instance being Consequence). So just why is this album “underappreciated“? I, for one bashed this album throughout 1996 (the year of it’s release), mainly because I couldn’t figure “who in the hell is this Consequence cat? and what in the hell is he doing all my Tribe album?”. I initially, absolutely despised the fact that A.T.C.Q was giving this “newcomer” all this shine on what was supposed to be the fourth in line of CLASSIC material brought forth from one of the greatest groups in the history of Hip Hop. Think about it, recalling one of the bigger singles released from “Beats, Rhymes & Life” one almost instantly associates the song as a solo effort from Cons to the Quence. Well, enough of the Consequence bashing because now I kinda’ like dude’s material (especially “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”). Listening to this album in abundance over the years, I come to enjoy it that much more with each passing year and listen. First of all, as I mentioned earlier in this rant it would have been hella‘ difficult to attain or even eclipse the classic status of the first three Tribe releases. Secondly, this album is still a very good album with much of the album’s production being top notch (introducing us to a production assembly know simply as “The Ummah“, too bad the best beat on the album “Crew” is the shortest song) and you could count on Q-Tip and Phife being…well, Tip & Phife…”chemistry” at it’s finest!! It would not be a far stretch to say this album would have been a 4 mic album (I think The Source may have given it 3 1/2 mics), but if “Beats, Rhymes & Life” would be released in the present day, it undoubtedly would surpass much of the market nowadays quality-wise. Like Dan Love’s most recent post @ FromDaBricks states “You Don’t Know What Till’ It’s Gone”. Just what would you give for a new Tribe album? I can still dream can’t I???….-Eric

78. Digable Planets-Reachin‘ (A New Refutation Of Time & Space)

Damn ya’ll!! Give me a late pass on this one!!! While searching for some of my favorites this morning to post today, I scanned right over Digable Planets’ 1993 CLASSIC “Reachin….”. “Wait a minute!!!”, I said to myself..”I’ve surely posted this album before!!!”. Well, as you can see…I never did, and it’s amazing to me because this album as well as Digable’s follow up “Blowout Comb” (which many would argue succeeds it’s predecessor in terms of cohesiveness) in my Top 25…without question!! I remember the first time I saw and heard Digable Planets, performing on an episode of “In Living Color”, when I first heard that horn loop from “Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat“) (they actually won a Grammy for that song in 1994!!) it was a rap for me. Never in my (at the time) brief 7 years of Hip Hop had I ever witnessed something soo jazzy, dusty and catchy as that record!! Pete & CL’s “T.R.O.Y” may be the exception in this case, but damn….my only exposure to riffs and horns like that was with Primo’s production for another CLASSIC (GangStarr’s “Daily Operation”). I know I posed the question in the writing for “Beats, Rhymes & Life” above, “What would you do for another Tribe album”??. To hell with that!!! Gimme’ another Digable Planets album along with the Pete & CL reunion and I’d be set for life. Another interesting tidbit that I found in Brian Coleman’s book “Check The Technique” (BTW, if you even claim Hip Hop as a passion, this book is essential reading for you) this week was that Rosie Perez (of the numerous titty-scened “White Man Can’t Jump” fame) actually recruited Butterfly, Doodlebug & Ladybug to appear on In Living Color as well as every Hip Hop act that ever appeared on the show (she was actually the choreographer for “The Fly Girls”). Back to the album, every cut is quality….period, with the aforementioned “Rebirth Of Slick” being my favorite followed by well…every track that followed!! Admittedly, I could have done without Doodlebug on the mic though, as I never felt that he offered much lyrically. Ish (Butterfly) and Ladybug Mecca on the other hand were very entertaining both with their flow and cadence (“It’s Mostly Tha‘ Voice”). Whoa, that most recent Ladybug Mecca joint was out there though, huh? Anyway, enjoy this one folks then follow it up with “Blowout Comb” and don’t forget the incense (insert fingersnaps and clouds of blunt smoke)….-Eric

79. X-Clan-To The East Blackwards

Alright, I gotta’ get this off my chest before I forget about it. Does anyone remember David Allen Grier from “In Living Color” or his infamous “Men On Film” skits? Funny thing, I remember when I first heard Professor X’s random drops of wisdom sprinkled all throughout X-Clan’s debut “To The East Blackwards“, I always thought that Proffesor X was Grier’s alter ego. Even today just listen to any X-Clan album and you’ll hear the similarities as their voices sound almost identical. Okay, enough BS let’s get down to bidness…X Clan’s 1990 debut (damn, that was 17 years ago!) “To The East…” quickly after it’s release became notorious for it’s political references as much as it was for “ushering in ” and utilization of G (or should I say P) funk samples. At the helm of the Blackwatch movement was Brother J, who still to this day has one of the most recognizable and potent voices in Hip Hop. It’s kind of hard to believe that a middle class white kid from “farmland” central found this album too be so impressive. I remember Public Enemy not always receiving the best publicity back in the day (and Professor Griff’s reference to “Jews” didn’t help matters at all either) for some of their political statements and viewpoints, but the X-Clan made P.E. seem quaint in terms of “saying what’s on your mind”. So why did I often revert to “To The East Blackwards” throughout my Freshman year in High School? Well, to begin with….X-Clan utilized the sample to what was already one of my favorite records of all time (Eric B & Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend”) and nearly one upped it with “Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It?” and one of my favorite songs from the album was more of a DJ showcase with the Sugar Shaft helmed “Shaft’s Big Score” (now that sh*t was funky!). Admittedly, when I played AAU basketball during my Freshman year, this was the only tape that my roomate and best friend had on him at any time, so eventually it grew on me to the point of “Damn, I need to get that joint!”. The only thing that becomes tiresome in my opinion was Professor X’s “This is protected by the Red, the Black and the Green..with the key…SISSSIES!!” on nearly every damn track!! I mean, Flav was the ultimate “Hype Man” in his hey day, but PX was just well….annoying (still, R.I.P. Professor X) and often held this album back at times with monotony. Nevertheless, this has always been one of my favorite albums and you can never understate the originality of this record especially with Brother J handling the microphone. Beat-wise this album may have been the East Coast version of “The Chronic” with a heavy reliance on Parliment/Funkadelic sampling. “To The East….” was also an album that was featured in my most recent Amazon.com purchase Brian Coleman’s “Check The Technique” that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet and I probably should have before I posted this but oh well. Still, a very important and potent album in Hip Hop from a group that has come under fire lately for their involvement in touring with the “ultra-white, ultra-corny” Insane Clown Posse (that gets a HUGE WTF???). I will never understand the logic behind that marketing scheme. Anyway, Vanglorious!!! Gotta’ give Brother J his props!….-Eric

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{ 10 comments }

turtle July 20, 2007 at 1:48 am

I really like Beats, Rhymes & Life when it came out. And, in my opinion, it was the first Tribe album where Phife out rhymed Tip. As far as Digable, one of my friends did not like them soley based on the fact that What Cool Breezes Do used the same horn sample as Nubian’s Pass the Gat. I always got the feeling all those dudes where hanging out, swapping beats, and trying to one up each other. Such a creative time in the early 90s.

turtle

Nokizm July 20, 2007 at 1:58 am

Its funny because I recently copped a digital copy of Beats, Rhymes and Life. Like other Tribe junkies, I was counting down the days for its release and bought it on cassette the first day it came out. I was slightly dissapointed, but it did recieve heavy rotation in my ride for at least a few weeks (I think it was late 96..??)
The next time I listened to it was last week (almost 11 years!!!) It sounded much doper now, and Cons was pretty ill on the mic too. Check the line: “I be doin more then that MC from the Lords” (He annoyed the shit out of me back then also) Thanks for taking the time to read my rant…Peace

Noklove

turtle July 20, 2007 at 3:48 am

I first heard X Clan (Heed the word of the Brother) while waiting to see Digital Underground and bought To the East shortly after. It is a great album. Their second album could qualify for your sophmore slump series. Although I like it more now than when it was first released. Some of the beats are nice and have more of an east coast sound.

Eric July 20, 2007 at 4:06 am

@turtle….your exactly right….hell, I did post it up as a “sophomore slump”, but I would say it’s neck & neck with “To The East”….thanks for all your comments, appreciated!

What It Is July 20, 2007 at 2:53 pm

Sup E,
I’mma try B,R&L again cause of you. I don’t think I listened to it twice through. I too was like “conse-who” and that chick singing on “stressed out” left me quite stressed out.
Also, I’m aso enjoying Check the Technique and just read the chapter on Reachin. My only gripe with the book is that I wish they talked more about equipment and recording techniques, but not many people care about that in the grand scheme. Still, it’s a great read. The blog is exquisite as always!!!
Pace.

Anonymous July 20, 2007 at 9:12 pm

Good post…Glad to see some ppl who haven’t lost their minds and labeled BR&L ‘wack’

Slightly disappointing, definitely…But wack? Not on your life, especially when props were, and are, given to much more inferior LPs.

I never liked when artists get graded differently based on ability, where they’re from, etc. To me, dope is dope, and wack is wack, regardless of who made it.

Besides, there was no way ANY artist could maintain that level of excellence forever. The Beatles couldn’t even do it (‘Let It Be,’ for example, tho they redeemed themselves w/’Abbey Road…And even that example proves my point, because ‘Let It Be’ still has better material than some artists make in their entire careers…but I digress).

Just cuz Tribe didn’t reach their usual standard of near-perfection, that doesn’t mean it’s wack…Jordan’s worst game is still better than most players’ best game.

Sorry for the long rant :-) But the disrespect this LP got over the years always puzzled me…Glad to see someone give it the props it deserved

* btw the Source actually gave it (a well-deserved) 4 mics at the time

Anonymous July 21, 2007 at 12:16 am

Don’t kill me but I thought, and still do think, B,R&L was horrible not for Consequence but because of the music. I just never shifted with them when JayDee entered the picture. I think to this day he was simply overated. This is just my opinion of course as I imagine I will be told I don’t know Hip-Hop or I am blasphemous because I don’t dig JayDee’s beats. Personally, I really only dug the work he did with Pharcyde on their second album. I thought the music on this Tribe release was sloppy and unfocused and “unfinished” sounding. But don’t get me wrong Consequence annoyed me too at the time. I just disliked JayDee’s contribution even more. To this day I rate this album lowest out of all of their work. Yes, that includes The Love Movement, which was slightly better than this thanks to at least a few listenable cuts.

D.

SniperInTheMist July 22, 2007 at 12:30 pm

Beats, Rhymes & Life may not have the same ‘feel’ as the first three, but its a very well-made album, from the beats(That still sound fresh today) and the usual great rhymes. Consequence didn’t bother me too much. In fact I thought his contributions were pretty decent…and then he dropped off the face of the earth for about 8 years.

As for digable planets – ‘Black Ego’ form Blowout Comb is one of the best laid back hip-hop tracks OF ALL TIME. Give it a listen. Seriously.

Dan Love July 22, 2007 at 5:28 pm

Hi E,

I have always had a real soft spot for B, R & L, and I actually prefer it to the crew’s debut. It was also one of the first hip hop albums that I bought as I started to consciously go out and seek it, and back in ’96, I bumped the shit out of it.

Q-Tip is one of the greatest producers of all time in my opinion.

Cheers

Dan

the wiz August 3, 2007 at 6:31 pm

I’m still pissed off at Consequence for being all on my Beats, Rhymes and Life CD.

So much so, that I didn’t give his solo CD a listen.

I’m not checking for him until he apologizes.

Still in all, this CD was solid. And why didn’t anybody else appreciate Get A Hold off this CD. I thought that was the jam.

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