Q-Tip gets plenty of praise for his production, but he’s also a prolific emcee. Tip’s charm on the microphone is even more impressive when you consider how calm and damn near monotonous his flow can be. In a sense, The Abstract One raised the bar without raising his voice. Our brain trust weighs in on Tip’s finest verses.
Patrick: “Lyrics to Go”
My favorite Tribe song changes depending on what track I last listened too. So too pick a favorite verse by Tip, is a challenge to say the least. My favorite (at the moment) is his first verse on “Lyrics To Go.” It seems like he uses multi syllabic rhyming in every bar. And the internal rhyme scheme is top notch here. Tip’s subject is the usual but is expressed in a different way. The flow is simple but with a smooth piano back drop, rusty guitar sample and some classic boom bap drums, it just fits. This verse showcases what we love about Q-Tip and Tribe as a whole. Okay, now I need to turn this album off before I change my mind and choose Tip’s first verse on “Oh My God.”
Rizoh: “N.T.” (Verse 1)
As one of the premier sound merchants of the 90s, Tribe gave me the soundtrack to life. Tip kept this tradition going with his musically inventive solo debut, Amplified. Point is, I never went to Kamaal or Phife Dizawg strictly for lyrics. But when Kamaal gives you a godly treat like “N.T.” who are you to refuse? Who knew he was even capable of thumping his chest convincingly? Poetic. Menacing. Timeless.
The opening verse is not only sonically dope (especially in the way the beat drops on after the first bars) but also topically layered behind a deceptively simple story. The debate around sampling as a new way to create music versus sampling as stealing someone else’s work was in full swing with the first sampling court cases still fresh in most people’s memory. Tip boils the huge cultural debate down to a conversation he had with his father, way back, putting the recycling of the debate in perspective as well. There is a generational gap, but there is common ground as well in the fact that the music of both their youths shares certain elements. “Well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles?” Every culture builds upon it’s predecessors, there would be no forward development without it. The reminiscing on a personal memory coupled with it’s warm playful tone give away the mark of true greatness: Making something highly skillful seem easy.
Sketch the Journalist: “Check the Rhime”
You on point Tip?
Yo, all the time Phife
So play the resurrector
And give the dead some life
Okay if knowledge is the key then just show me the lock
Got the scrawny legs but I move just like Lou Brock
With speed, I’m agile, plus I’m worth your while
One hundred percent intelligent black child
My optic presentation sizzles the retina
How far must I go to gain respect? Ummm….
Well, it’s kind of simple, just remain your own
Or you’ll be crazy sad and alone
Industry rule number four thousand and eighty
Record company people are shady
So kids watch your back, ‘cause I think they smoke crack
I don’t doubt it, look at how they act
My favorite verse from The Abstract has to be this spit session because it seems to encompass the whole of the Tribe. Spirituality? Humor? Black pride? Sports references? Skills? “Check the Rhime” son. The “Industry Rule” line is oft-quoted and certifiably classic. Here, Tip is both educating and pontificating. It’s the rightful role of any true MC. And by citing its number we’re all made aware that there are at least 4,079 additional lessons we need to review on Q’s syllabus. Sign me up.
What about you? What’s your favorite Q-Tip verse of all-time?