When Phife Dawg passed away in 2016, he was a few months into recording a new solo album — his first since 2000’s Ventilation: Da LP. While the album was originally slated for release in 2017, it was shelved for unknown reasons until very recently. In November of 2020, A Tribe Called Quest announced that the album would finally come out sometime in 2021, and today, the first single was released. “Nutshell Part 2” is a sequel to the 2016 J-Dilla-produced track “Nutshell” and features two of Tribe’s oldest and most frequent collaborators: Busta Rhymes and Redman.
The beat over which the trio rhymes is a vintage Tribe combination of cracking drums and sparse sample hits, putting the focus on the three MCs’ intricate wordplay. All three use the fun tactic of repeating their words’ prefixes multiple times each bar, stressing the echoing sounds for emphasis. Phife flips the “re-” sound to start out with, while Busta plays with “un-” words. Redman bats cleanup by hammering the word “keep” over and over again, finding more and more clever ways to stretch the word’s utility throughout his verse.
The song turns out to be an effective preview of what’s to come on Phife’s album, titled Forever: The sort of wholesome, nuts-and-bolts throwback rap Tribe was known for throughout its tenure in the 1990s. Forever is slated for release through indie distributor AWAL sometime this year.
Listen to Phife Dawg’s “Nutshell Part 2” featuring Busta Rhymes and Redman above.