You know what? When your alter-ego is sitting in a waiting room, hanging with the junkie set and wondering when this bestial flu will disappear, music is a very good litmus test of where one stands. This is not because drug addicts, old people and flight crew have 20/20 hearing (if there is such a thing), but rather that they are all used to various forms of non-invasive background noise. Anything that upsets this delicate balance will result in absolute pandemonium, especially when the phone starts ringing and fax machine starts having an identity crisis. You’d be surprised how much Jack Johnson can actually piss off an opiate-dependent patient, what, with all the huge tone colour changes and dynamic variation in his 9 minute opuses about nothing. Thus, picking the right sounds for my current place of semi-occupation is more tricky than one would first assume; I have to be edgier than the 80+ year old who usually mans this desk, but not ‘in-your-face’ enough to disrupt my hoodrat clientele from their self-imposed reverie. This is a mentally taxing predicament.
A Tribe Called Quest, purveyors of hip hop cool (even iTunes agrees), led by the golden-voiced Q-Tip and totally indebted to jazz, funk and all those other cool musical movements that everybody else forgot about in the 1994 in pursuit of plaid shirts, are an unlikely choice but have worked wonders in this setting. ‘Electric Relaxation’, whilst promoting exactly the kind of activity these patrons typically enjoy for up to 20 hours a day, cruises along nonchalantly with a slinking bass line and doesn’t even register a volume change when the vocals come in. These are the smoothest operators in hip-hop, it’s no wonder that Tip is still in demand and Phife (shit I love that name) was all over the TLC album, you know, back when they were Crazy and Sexy and whatever. The combination of these two (and that DJ called Muhammad) was musical gold, and even though they had a wicked falling out comparable, maybe to the Sugababes, they’ve patched things up and even re-united a couple of times.
Q-Tip reminds me of the musical Don Cheadle; he’s that producer/vocalist who’s just friggin’ everywhere. Even though it took the guy ten years to convince his retarded record label to release his latest album, he pops up on all the golden joints by Busta Rhymes, Nas, De La Soul and everyone who isn’t 50 Cent. That’s probably Tip being nice, you don’t want to make the guy feel dumb just by walking into the studio, I mean, he’s been shot 9 times, alright? To be honest, I think Phife’s got the better rhymes but you can’t fault Q’s delivery, and given that he wrote most of the music he’s kind of entitled to do whatever he wants. With the release of the awesome Renaissance last year, Q-Tip is garnering himself a whole new generation of fans. But you’d be wise to check out the Quest, primarily because the junkies dig it.
A Tribe Called Quest – ‘Electric Relaxation’