Midnight Marauders‘ 20th anniversary hits me in a weird way. I was way too young to go out and buy A Tribe Called Quest’s album on my own. Thankfully, the radio and TV did what they could to bring its singles to my attention.
Vivid memories of bugging out to “Award Tour” are fun to recall. “Electric Relaxation” and its video really strike chords with me, though. The song and its visuals kept things simple to grand effect. Now they’re etched in time as memorable works of art. Walk with us to reminisce on some obvious and not-so evident aspects from both works.
1. Raise your hand if you thought Tip said “be so clear”…or anything other than the right words on the hook.
Go ahead, don’t be shy. Tip’s voice sounds quite muffled at first. Once you understand him saying “Please set-tle down” you can’t un-hear it. Then you felt like an idiot for getting the lyrics wrong. It took some folks a few plays to get it right and others a few years. Where do you fall?
2. You will never view Seaman’s Furniture the same ever again
“Let me hit it from the back, girl I won’t catch a hernia/Bust off on your couch, now you got Seaman’s Furniture” easily went down as some of Phife’s best punchlines.
3. Two thumbs up for three bar loops
“Electric Relaxation” runs like an auditory puzzle thanks to the “Mystic Brew” sample. “Mystic Brew’s” opening cleverly loops in three bars rather than in a conventional even number repetition. Yet the sequencing on “Electric Relaxation” hides the loop’s nature in plain sight.
You had to at least raise an eyebrow when you first caught it.
4. Women really loved to dress like dudes back then
Seeing Tip’s suspect love interest wasn’t a glitch in the matrix. A whole bunch of 90’s videos feature women rocking baggy clothes and boots just like the bros. Rap fans often clamor for a ’90s resurgence on all fronts. Five bucks says they’d keep today’s females fully equipped with yoga paints and sundresses: weather permitting.
*waits patiently for The Nightcap.*
5. These fools would’ve waited FOREVER for that cab IRL
It’s a struggle for one black man to catch a cab in NY. Yet these fools “really” rode in a taxi together across the Brooklyn Bridge like it’s nothing. I’d like to see them try that now just to see how many “NO BROOKLYN” replies they’d get on the way back. Now you have more proof about music videos being make believe.
6. Black and white filming made the visuals shine
You’d be hard pressed to find an outcry about the video’s aesthetic. The overall direction contributes to the song’s “coolness” factor. However filming in black and white works exceptionally well by translating the song’s message on screen. NY and our heroes look all hip for their time and vintage in today’s view. Good luck to anyone who tries to make Midtown Manhattan look so inviting these days.
7. The Wayans Brothers connection is so crucial
“We’re brothers/We’re happy and we’re singing and we’re colored/GIVE ME A HIGH FIVE!”
TV anthems usually succeed by being ridiculously catchy on some Fresh Prince sh*t or relying on some form of nostalgia. The Wayans Bros. theme employs “Electric Relaxation” as a backdrop to their approach to a modern, black sitcom. Then again show became far raunchier than the theme’s sophisticated tone. The disconnect seemed jarring but it at the very least put a classic song as a draw to a network TV show.
Previously: The Making Of A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Midnight Marauders’ Album Cover: A Conversation With Art Director Nick Gamma | QOTD: Where Would You Rank A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Midnight Marauders’?