Words By Malik V.
Though The Firm was hyped up to be a super group of MC’s, they turned out to be a disappointment after sounding perfect on paper as a group of lyricists taking full advantage of the Mafioso theme of the late 90’s. Nas, AZ, Foxy, and Nature gave us “The Album”, their only release as a group, and though they didn’t exactly create their place in hip-hop history, they did bless us with a track that had it all: “Phone Tap.”
In terms of a bangin’ beat, lyrics, delivery, and concept, “Phone Tap” was the perfect package. The beat, by none other than Dr. Dre, who also laid down the hook, is hypnotizing with its somber-sounding loop and drums, but not quite enticing enough to divert the listener’s attention from Nas and AZ. Highlighting Dre’s style, the beat is simple, and provides the perfect platform for two MC’s who know how to feed off of each other.
The concept is pretty simple: two thugs executing a scheme, carrying on a phone conversation, who suspect that they’re being bugged by the feds. Its’ execution was flawless. Nas and AZ’s raps sound like they’re speaking through a phone, with crackling sound effects throughout. Nas and AZ spit about their predicament and their whereabouts, and in between, Dr. Dre comes in with the chorus, playing the role of the cop: (“We got your phone tapped/ What you gon’ do?/Cuz sooner or later, we’ll have your whole crew”). While Nas and AZ never actually confirm their suspicions, they make them well known: (I feel awful speakin’/ For some reason/ Feel the phone’s tapped).
The beauty of “Phone Tap” is that it gives us both sides of the story, and presents them vividly. We can imagine Nas and AZ staring out the window, looking for cops, and talking to each other on a rainy and gloomy day. We can also picture the evil smile Dre would get as he hears two G’s setting themselves up for getting knocked. We feel a genuine sense of sympathy for Nas and AZ, who are digging their own graves and going against their gut by talking, and the mellow and foreboding beat only highlights that feeling. As far as concept tracks go, “Phone Tap” has be high one of the best, as a vivid story is told through effects, lyrics, and a beat.