General Jimmy

Writer / DJ / PR Manager / Fat Bastard

Archive for the tag “Tribe Called Quest”

Five for the Funk – Guru

It’s a sad week for Boston. Whilst the city is reeling in shock from the marathon bombings it’s also the anniversary of one of their strongest musical exponents death this week, and more precisely today. Three years ago rapper Guru, one half of legendary group Gang Starr, died.

The aftermath was a lot of guff dissing his Gang Starr comrade Preemo via the cryptic will cum chain letter administered by DJ Solar, and whilst the truth around that was murky at best one thing that wasn’t was the fact the duo made some serious music. They maybe aren’t the most influential or finest hip-hop group ever, but surely the most consistent, with every studio album rammed full of classic joints.

As well as that Keith Elam pioneered jazz focused hip-hop even more with his Jazzmatazz projects, as well as the occasional guest verse proving his clout over and over again. It’s only right that the monotone master gets some five for the funk love. Roll up…

‘Full Clip’

This was the first song that really got me into Gang Starr. They were on my radar as a teenager but this video was a permanent fixture on MTV Base in 1999 when sciving school was a necessity so I could stay up all night watching hip-hop videos. The cameos in the video, the shout out to Big L (again someone who I was just abotu to discover properly), and Guru

I copped the album shortly afterwards as well and realised the full scope of the group’s longevity and ability. I’ve been head-nodding to them ever since.

‘DWTYCK’ ft Nice & smooth

Lemonade is a popular drink and it still is. That’s all.

‘Loungin’ ft Donald Byrd

Gang Starr’s early work in particular was very much focused on exploring old jazz, both from a sample perspective and the way DJ Premier approached his production ethos. Along with the Native tongues crew they were repsonsible for the re-appreciation of the genre in much the same way the music of three to four years earlier had grinded out the funk licks of James Brown and Amceo Parker. Gugu took the ideology one step further though with a number of high profile cooloborations with high profile jazz musicians on the Jazzmatazz projects.

This record featured trumpeter Donald Byrd, and was endemic of the kind of blissed out mellow brilliance capable when the two genres collided. Guru also took Byrd on tour with another legendary jazz supremo, Roy Ayers. Whether it’s been Nas teaming up with his father or ATCQ showing their love, the combination remains a potent one.

Digable Planets feat. Guru – “Borough Check”

Digable Planets were another crew that dug jazz, and this remains one of Guru’s dopest guest verses. Rhymes and rhymes and rhymes, this is a great smoky hip-hop joint.

‘You Know my steez’

Whilst Guru could do aggression he was best when mellowing it out, and even better when he was doing the former by being the latter. And it doesn’t get much better an example of that than this absolute gem. A hallmark Premier production, the melancholy melody sounding butter over the splurging bass, was met by a lyrical masterclass from Guru.

There’s gems everywhere, from the way “Dropping lyrics that be hotter than sex and candle wax, while one dimensional emcees can’t handle that” shows how to be about one thing yet in style the same minute he dismisses emcees for lacking his intelligence, the whole thing is perfect.

Hip-hop have had few as great in an understated manner.

Busta Rhymes & the Flipmode Squad – Five for the Funk

First in line for Friday’s five for the Funk series is a look at Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad, in their late nineties heyday rather than the rather lame Conglomerate version. LONS might have been the original template for Busta to bring his madcap genius to the fore (case in point that Arsenio performance), but his late nineties crew were mad underrated as well, winning a source award and dropping a decent album in the form of ‘The Imperial’.

Although later line-ups would include emissaries such as Papoose and Noreaga, this was the genuine golden era of the group – alongside Busta they had one of the nicest female emcees of the period in Outsidaz’ Rah Digga, Ragga voiced Serious (who left before the Imperial was recorded and then went on to produce for No Limit) the pre-pubescent looking Baby Sham, the fairly wack on his own but decent enough to hold court in a crew Rampage the last Boy Scout, Busta’s greatest ever hype man Spliff Star and the quite simply amazing Lord Have Mercy.

Like Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 on crack, Lord had one of the greatest voices hip-hop has ever seen and a ridiculously short career. Anyone that makes you stop and listen more than Busta Rhymes on a posse cut nigh n every time he dropped a verse is a true star despite a relative lack of consistent quality, and the acrimony behind him leaving probably had something to do with said ability.

So here’s five of the best records the crew produced, from a point when Busta really was at his creative best. Enjoy.

‘Cha Cha Cha’

The quintessential Flipmode joint, Spliff Star sets the tone, Rah Digga drops her gravel voiced niceness, Busta has that madcap hook locked down and even Baby Sham does well. And the video has Busta as a matador! Awesome beat too, easily one of the best hip-hop tracks of the last two years of the nineties.

‘Everybody on the Line’

Following on from the flamenco theme of ‘Cha Cha Cha’, the other single off ‘The Imperial’ is also firmly rooted in that late nineties production mindset and the type of banger you can imagine being moodily lapped up in the Tunnel and on Hot 97 (it also made Westwood’s show on more than one occasion). You can also see Lord ripping it up on BET here as well.

‘We could Take it Outside’

As stated previously Lord’s sheer vocal presence often outweighed even that of Busta on wax, and arguably the greatest example of it is here. The Swizz Beatz production has that joyous 90s feel about it (his at the time futuristic strings were unlike anything else on the musical landscape), Rah Digga drops a trademark killer line (‘waiting on mine like I’m the LL comeback’) and then Lord just savages proceedings before Busta tries to claw the focus back at the end. A proper good posse cut.

‘Against all Odds’

Off the ELE album from Busta; and his apocalyptic fascinations get fed into by his crew brilliantly. The late nineties hip-hop obsession with the end of the world and the millennium bug was a bit silly though, wasn’t it?

‘Flipmode is the Squad’

Rampage wasn’t the best emcee but he could hold his own in a posse cut, and this one from his ‘Scout’s Honor… by Way of Blood‘ is certainly a great example of that. Boasting the same raw and at ’em bass driven production from DJ Scratch which was a big part of ‘The Coming’ era Busta, this is straight up mid 90s head nod brilliance. The frantic delivery, ODB style wailing, Serious’ rough hewn singing-cum-rapping, obligatory show stealing verse from Bus-a-bus and, of course, Lord Have, make this the kind of cut you imagine soundtracked weed smoking car journeys in NYC at the time.

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest – Showing at Fact

Tribe produced two of the greatest albums in music, not hip-hop but music period, in the early nineties and are the quintessential hip-hop group when judging by quality control. Public Enemy may have done more for the art form, Wu Tang may have altered the landscape to a greater level and De La were arguably consistent for longer, but Tribe never put a foot wrong. Some albums were only good as opposed to jaw-dropping.

This documentary is a must-see for their fans, lovingly being shown in FACT on Thu Aug 9th for those who haven’t seen it already. I have but will probably still go because it’s fucking brilliant. Check the rhime.

Josh Clarke Mix

Found this mix on the popgoestheradio blog from Josh Clarke, rough and ready mix of house, hip-hip, some party classics and a bit more. There’s James Brown, Caribou, MJ Cole, Tribe Called Quest and oodles more.

Peep the full tracklisting here.

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