A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders” Just Turned 24 — Here’s a 18-Track Playlist To Celebrate
Q-Tip’s production savvy has always been next level. During his teenage years he taught himself how to make pause-tape beats through the careful study of his father’s massive cache of jazz records and countless hours of exhaustive practice. By the time he was 15, he was making rough versions of songs like “Bonita Applebum” that would later play a central role in the creation of Tribe’s 1990 debut People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.
When Midnight Marauders dropped a little more than three years later, Tip had further improved his skills on the boards. After producing People’s Instinctive Travels and Tribe’s subsequent 1991 effort The Low End Theory, he’d evolved beyond the incredible but simple loop-stacking methods seen in his earliest work. He could now pull out subtle nuances from different sample sources to make his tracks sound just right.
During the production of Midnight Marauders drums were a central focus for each track — Tip wanted every single kick and snare to knock just right. But as he told Vibe magazine in 2011, knocking percussion didn’t always mean loud drums. “If you could describe the Tribe snare sounds on this album they sound like n***a drums,” he told Vibe. “These are some epic drum sounds that will tear your fucking head off. And there are ways you can get that sound on different levels too. The drums don’t always have to be super loud.”
To further his point about perfecting different drum styles Tip brought up “Electric Relaxation” — a pristine example of understated, head-nodding percussion. “When you listen to ‘Electric Relaxation’ the drums are not trying to kill you,” he told Vibe. “It’s [very much] controlled. But even if it’s a smaller sounding beat you want the tone to be like at any moment the tone of these drums can go from 5 to 10!”
“These are some epic drum sounds that will tear your fucking head off.”- Q-Tip
To find just the right drums and samples for the album, Tip pulled from an incredible array of sources. Everyone from Jack Wilkins to Minnie Ripperton had their songs flipped on Midnight Marauders, with snippets of Kool & The Gang and The Meters thrown in for good measure. And it wasn’t just music from the past that influenced Q-Tip’s beats. He was also using his experiences as a DJ in the early 90s to draw from more modern sounds like Jade’s “Don’t Walk Away”, which helped him come up with the beat for “Award Tour”.
As a tribute to Q-Tip’s remarkable production and use of diverse sample sources, Tip and Phife’s beautiful chemistry on the mic, and Tribe’s enduring legacy as a group, here’s a compilation of Midnight Marauders songs, samples, influences, and remixes. The sample sources follow the Tribe song that sampled them with remixes coming at the end of the playlist. To avoid getting dragged as a sample snitching monster, I’ve only included samples that were cleared in the liner notes.
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