My eyes were burning. Exhausted, I got off of my bed and followed
the red glow of my turntable sitting on my dresser. Dropping the
needle I heard the signature elevator music and fembot introducing
the album. Tribe’s production value always is stellar even in the
times of one loop samplers. This faction of the Native Tongues did
not disappoint. “Stir It Up” set the album off as a precursor for what
to expect for the next 50 mins. A bit harder than their previous
albums, but still true to the musicality of what made Tribe legend.
The thing I remember the most was how the album flowed. With
the fem bot injecting a “keep bouncing” in between songs, it was
1:10 AM before I realized it. “Award Tour” the already hit single
was complimented by edgier tracks like “8 Million Stories” and
“The Chase II”. It kinda showed a sign of the times. Hip Hop was
taking a leave from feel good music to more situational, social
mirroring rather than commentary. It was more common for MCs
to use the word “nigga” in there songs and weed worship was at
an all time high. “Marauders” marked the impending transition of
the Hip Hop culture. It used to be cool to have a fun song not
about violence, confrontation, elicit drug use, and word play.
During this time the darker side of Hip Hop was emerging, not
in a bad way, but a real time sign of the times. These were the
end of the Dinkins years and the looming of the Guiliani years in
NYC. The lyrics showed. Songs like “Sucka Nigga” clashed with
“Oh My God” but somehow there was still balance. “Lyrics 2 Go”
and “Electric Relaxation” flexed the core technique of the Tribe.
Their sound was theirs
November 9, 1993 was the writing on the wall. Wu Tang on the
store shelves next to A Tribe Called Quest. The ying and the yang
coexisting. But the music was going edgy, shock driven soon after.
Not that it was a bad thing. It is just that the balance is not there
anymore. These were my “backpacker” years and although I was
from the streets I was not a drug dealer nor did I have a record.
Pushing rhymes not portraying street life got less desirable for record
companies. I once had a producer ask me if me or my crew ever
been locked up. When I replied with “Nothing major” he recommended
that we get our stripes. I was floored. I just wanted to rap and
produce good music.
I ask now why did the culture change. Hip Hop is music’s chameleon
adapting to the times. Still how did we totally give up on the balance.
Fun records are wack. Hard tracks are hits. The answer for the most
part is hip hop is not cherished like rock. There is no light hip hop or
“backpacker” stations. Just one place suggesting what is hot to reach
the ultimate goal of selling records. Follow the money. And like any
art, money can empower and cheapen the initial idea. Yeah. I will say
I miss those days and miss the variety. Still, I will not discredit those
who came after this time. I’ll just plead to the next generation: do
your homework. Build with those before you. Do not bend to satisfy
or justify an execs bottom line. Your talent is what got you there.
Make them work for you. Maybe only then can we restore the balance.