23. Q-Tip on "Scenario" (1992)
"It's a Leader Quest mission and we got the goods here/
Never on the left cause my right's my good ear/
I could give a damn about a ill subliminal/
Stay away from crime so I ain't no criminal/
I love my young nation, groovy sensation/
No time for hibernation, only elation/
Don't ever try to test, the water little kid/
Yo Mr. Busta Rhymes, tell him what I did"
There's much that can be said about how The Low End Theory weaves together two black art forms (jazz and rap) into one package, how dense the rhymes are, or how A Tribe Called Quest redefined cool with this seminal work. However, it's hard to argue against the fact that Q-Tip was the glue holding this whole thing together. His voice may've been nasally, but regardless, you paid attention anytime he spit.
As the glue, perhaps it's fitting he restricts himself to eight bars when the train breaks down into a posse free-for-all in "Scenario." It's chaos, but The Abstract's precision ensures he doesn't get lost in the shuffle. It's more than just distancing himself from those negative gangster rap stereotypes. His "I love my young nation, groovy sensation/No time for hibernation, only elation" confirms this jam isn't just a singular moment in history, but a rallying cry for a movement. Busta's "ROAW ROAW" may've been more cathartic and memorable, but Q-Tip's verse was about the substance. —Brian Josephs