Part Three (In This Case, We Maraud For Ears)
Continued from Part Two:
There are certain memories that stick with us in life. It may be your first kiss, your High School Graduation or your first car. It may even be the birth of your first child, when you finally finished paying the mortgage on your home or the lost of a loved one. In any of these cases or others not mentioned, if you are a true music lover, there was that one crucial album or song you were listening to that became that respective memory’s accompaniment. I personally have lots of those soundtracks.
Anytime Labi Saffir’s “I Got The“:
is within earshot, thoughts of my own absentee father and my attempt to reach out to him for the very first time in over 27 years, come flooding in with the anger I still feel at how all he could manage to give me was a five minute conversation before he made up a lame excuse and passed the phone to his girlfriend who then proceeded to try to say the words I was looking for him to speak. Yes, I did just get madd personal but I felt it was needed right there.
The albums and songs I have mentioned in this post and the two before it have kept me stable during those times but in thinking back through those slices of life, I continue to find that the majority of the happier ones that swim to the surface of my mind’s murky depths, are my Junior/Senior years of High School and how they so easily get associated with A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders“.
My crew and I weren’t really part of the High School social structure. We didn’t fall into the normal, one lump grouping like “The Jocks”, “The Nerds” or even really “The Outcasts”. We were more like “The Fringe”. No, not the show, though I do like it’s X-Files meets CSI quirkiness. I’m talking about the kids that everyone knew and was cool with but they did their own thing and could care less if you liked it or not, kind of kids. That was who we were. We were interchangeable. Some of us might hang with one of the other cliques for a little while here and there but once you were in “The Fringe”, you were in for life and were always welcomed back into the fold with open arms and no static about your hiatus or it’s reasoning.
“The Fringe” kids could always be found in our normal, before the school bell rang spot, at the school Library. Even though it was a place of silence and study, before classes started it was a warm place for us to congregate, be full of youthful Librarian disturbing exuberance and discuss any number of topics ranging from who’s dating who, can I copy your answers from last night’s homework and of course did you watch “Yo! MTV Raps” and see “Digital Underground“? Did you see “In Living Color” yesterday and see what “The Fly Girls” were wearing? I like Rap City but WTF is wrong with Mayor Chris Thomas’ voice?
Another favorite topic of ours was which Emcee or group was hot and what album was tight or “the joint” at that time. We were into anything and everything, from the West Coast’s laid back Funk to the East Coast’s cutting edge mainstream to the Midwest’s Pimpin’. If mp3’s, iPods and the like had been available back then, mine would have looked like this cause there were so many artists to choose from:
(Click the song titles to get copies to add to your own collection)
KMD – “Peachfuzz“:
3X’s Dope – “Funky Dividends“:
MC Breed (God Bless The Grave) – “Ain’t No Future In Ya Frontin“:
Blacksheep – “The Choice Is Yours (This or That)“:
Brand Nubian – “All For One“:
Do or Die – “Po’ Pimp” feat. Twista:
The Pharcyde – “Otha Fish“:
Diamond D – “Sally Got a One Track Mind“:
Freestyle Fellowship – “Inner City Boundaries“:
Kwame – “The Man We All Know And Love“:
but we were especially fond of anything Native Tongue related and would constantly debate on such pressing matters as:
1. Who really was nicer with the flow; Tip or Phife?
2. What exactly did Phife say in the line that was blanked/scratched over on “Oh My God“?
3. Exactly why did Large Professor leave Main Source or at least why did he dis Sir Scratch & K-Cut on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Keep It Rollin’ ” Midnight Marauders track?
4. If Monie Love got to rhyme on the Buddy (Remix), why didn’t Queen spit too as well as sing the “Ooh Child” part?
5. What exactly does Touche et Lele Pu mean?
6. What in the hell is “The Alligator Bob”?
7. Why do you just gotta dance when you hear Queen Latifah’s “Dance for Me”? Was it because of how hype the video was?These questions and countless others burned in our adolescent minds constantly. I admit it was sometimes hard to concentrate on my school work because of Hip-Hop. I would get home, turn on my stereo and make a concerted effort to concentrate on homework but it wouldn’t be long before I was doing whatever the latest dance was. Let me put a little more honesty in that last sentence and say I would attempt them at least. I’ve never been a good dancer. Matter of fact I’ve never even been in the same vicinity as good when it comes to moving my feet to music. I stick to the simple two-step, no matter what the song is. Don’t get me wrong, I have rhythm but dancing was never my forte. It still didn’t stop me from doing the Humpty Dance all over my Great-Grandmother’s house.
Well, that was until one of her church friends told her what some Hunpty / Shock G’s lyrics meant. It took a while to convince her that all Hip-Hop groups weren’t like Digital Underground. Plus there was that episode of The Oprah show that she dedicated to educating parents about the dangers of music labeled with the bastardization of “Gangsta Rap” back in the early 90’s too. That didn’t help much either and without having to spend major paper on a psychiatrist, would explain why I don’ t care much for Ms. Winfrey now. So I guess the day I went and purchased Midnight Marauders was a special one as it marked my rebellion against Celie and the “Deebo” like mind control she had over Granny Ruth. I wonder how many female readers I will lose over that one.
It was a typical day at school, nothing out of the ordinary really happened except that the crew was in our usual spot banging out beats on the Library table and attempting to spit rhymes when the homie Matt asked me if I had copped the new Tribe yet. My eyes went wide and my jaw dropped for a split second before I recovered and quickly rattled of a string of questions;
When did it come out? Who’s featuring on it?
Is it tight? How did I miss this?
Matt just laughed as did Josh at my “lateness”. To rub it in even more, they started singing Phife’s verses from “Stir It Up” (Steve Biko).
I didn’t even let them get started good before I had an Ed O.G. moment and knew “I Got To Have It“. So after school, I missed the bus intentionally and walked home cause I knew I would have to walk through downtown Asheville and there was a new record store on the corner of Patton Avenue that I had been meaning to check out anyway. For those that are from Da Ville you may remember it was in the building that Beanstreets coffee shop used to be in. Sad that Beanstreets closed before I had a chance to go back and enjoy it’s atmosphere again.
So I walked, which at that time was really not a big deal to my young HS legs, from one side of Asheville proper to the other on my quest for “Quest”. I walked into the store (the name of which escapes me right now) and made a bee-line for the new releases. Right in the front of the stack was the infamous Red, Black and Green Paint Streaked Lady on the cover with what appeared to be different head shots of Emcees I listened to and admired in the background. Can you say Instantaneously Timeless Visual? Hard pressed these days to find Album Art that grabs you like this. Hey, it even inspired MJ to create a line of Air Jordans based on it. Hard to get more iconic than that.
I think know I ran home, with the quickness, since I was only a total of ten blocks from home, opened the door, said my hello’s to my family and quickly sequestered myself in my room dissect this iconic LP. I listened and listened and listened…and then I listened some more. Had to be at least ten times and since it was through headphones no one in the house came to ask me to turn it down or what I was listening to or anything. It was one of those “I’m At One With The Music” moments. You know the kind that we all have had at some point in our lives when an album grabs you, gives you a good hard shake and a couple of reality sucker punches to the kidneys while wearing velvet gloves and doesn’t let go until it gets tired of having it’s way with you.
I learned that album back to front, sideways and edgewise. To this day, there is still not a song I don’t know all the words to and there is still not a nuance within a track that I don’t mimic.
Seriously, I do everything.
From the air piano playing at the beginning of the Award Tour video to the “Help Me” repeats at the end of 8 Million Stories (yes, all of them all the way to the end when it gets weird. If you didn’t know, Tip says Muhammad at the end) and even the whistle part in the background during Tip’s verse on
“Lyrics To Go“:
Growing up in the golden era of Hip-Hop exposed me to a lot of artists, albums and different points of view but none had the same effect as this group and this album. It made me wonder why people use the word Nigga as a term of endearment. It threw names of living and martyred political activist at me like Mandela and Biko. It also did it with such flair, subtle bravado and just straight up funkiness that I just couldn’t resist it if I tried.
Don’t get me wrong, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm and The Low End Theory made deep impressions on my psyche. Hell, even Beats, Rhymes and Life and The Love Movement are incredible LP’s IMHO. But I don’t have the same connecting memories attached to them as I do for MM. I can’t help but associate it as the soundtrack to my leaving behind the childish ways of HS and helping to broaden my scope during my introduction to manhood.
Wow…it only took three posts to get all of this out of my brain. I was expecting it to be ten or more. Who knew?
You know, I couldn’t end this one without a stream / download of my favorite song from the album.
A Tribe Called Quest – God Lives Through:
Side Note: Oh, just in case you couldn’t name all or any of the Emcees, DJ’s and Producers on the back of the Midnight Marauders cover here’s the listing.