In hip hop, fans and critics often marvel at and put a premium on the supreme soloists or groups who can craft classic songs and bodies of work while remaining the central figure. However, the most electric moments in the culture occur when multiple emcees collaborate on a track with the sole purpose of asserting themselves as the most lyrically gifted by delivering an epic rhyme spill that outclasses the others. Throughout the years, the songs — which are generally referred to as ‘posse cuts’ — have become some of the most memorable in the genre’s history, as rap’s most legendary stars team up on wax and bring the most rabid of rap fans’ fantasies to reality.
In celebration of these historic songs and what they mean to the culture, REVOLT Presents: Tale of the Tape, our series where we break down the greatest posse cuts of all-time and rank the verses from worst to first.
In our latest installment of the series, we’ll be revisiting “Scenario” from A Tribe Called Quest’s sophomore album, The Low End Theory, which dropped in September 1991. After making their debut in 1990 with People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm; which introduced the world to the genius of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Tribe unveiled that second album and it shifted the landscape of hip hop. For “Scenario,” the third single released from the album, A Tribe Called Quest decided to throw a bone to a rising rap group by the name of Leaders of the New School, a quartet of teenagers out of Long Island who were cosigned by the likes of Public Enemy. Comprised of rhymers Charlie Brown, Dinco D, Cut Monitor Miloand and a pre-fame Busta Rhymes; Leaders of the New School collided with A Tribe Called Quest for one of the most epic rap selections of all-time. To this day, many consider the track to be the definitive posse cut in the history of the genre. Without further adieu, check out our ranking of the verses on “Scenario.”
Q-Tip’s appearance here is brief, yet memorable with Tribe’s de facto frontman contributing an 12-bar verse that the staunchest rap fan should know verbatim. While all of his punches and one-liners land cleanly, the contrast in the amount of airtime he and his cohorts receive proves too much for Q-Tip to overcome. This makes The Abstract the last runner up, albeit he has a timeless verse to show for it.
Standout Lyrics: “It’s a Leader-Quest mission and we got the goods here (Here!)/Never on the left ’cause my right’s my good ear (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.”
4. Charlie Brown
From the second you hear Brown shout, “Yes yes, y’all” on the track, it’s clear that the energy has been ratcheted up and things are about to get real. Picking up the lyrical baton after the introductory verse, Brown goes for broke, dropping shouts to various regions across the rap landscape, while giving the gas face to the competition in the process. His legacy in rap may amount to a footnote. However, his showing on this classic cut makes for a shining moment in rap history and ensures his rightful place in the annals of rap is secured.
Standout Lyrics: “So, may I say, call me Charlie/The word is the herb and I’m deep like Bob Marley/Lay back on the payback, evolve, rotate the gates (Contact!)/Can I get a hit? (Hit!) Boom, bip/With a brother named Tip, and we’re ready to flip/East coast stomping, ripping, and romping/New York, North Cak-a-laka, and Compton.”
3. Dinco D
As the third artist to appear on the track, Dinco D finds himself caught in the middle of this rhyme fest, but makes the most of his position when he lays down a dynamic verse that’s full of flavor. Rich in wordplay, the LONS member’s verbal spillage is clever and powered by a delivery that’s so precise, it keeps listeners on the edge of their seat from beginning to end.
Standout Lyrics: “Ship-shape, crushed grapes, apes that play tapes/Papes make drakes baked for the wakes/Of an (L-ah-!), an (-eader!), simply just a leader/Base in the space means peace, see ya later/Later (Later!) later, alligator/Pop blows the weasel and the herb’s the inflater/So, yo, the D, what! The O/Incorporated I-N-C into a flow.”
2. Phife Dawg
In most rap duos, one member tends to get the short-end of the stick at times. In the case of A Tribe Called Quest, this was Phife’s cross to bear. However, contrary to perception, The Funky Diabetic was by no means a sidekick, weak link, or underling. He reminded listeners of this on multiple occasions, most notably on this posse cut. Leading off as the first artist to appear on the track, Phife puts forth one of the more electric and quotable verses of all-time, outclassing his more ballyhooed group mates in the process. Rife with pop culture references and nods to sports greats of yesterday, Phife’s lyrics are timeless more than a quarter century after the fact and one of many testament’s to the late rapper’s greatness.
Standout Lyrics: “Ayo, Bo knows this (What?) And Bo knows that (What?)/But Bo don’t know jack, ’cause Bo can’t rap/Well, what do you know? The Di-Dawg is first up to bat/No batteries included and no strings attached/No holds barred, no time for move-fakin’/Gots to get the loot so I can bring home the bacon/Brothers front, they say the Tribe can’t flow/But we’ve been known to do the impossible like Broadway Joe, so.”
1. Busta Rhymes
The most legendary MCs have that one defining moment that made everyone tuning in know that they were destined for greatness. For Busta Rhymes, that moment came in 1991, when he and his Leaders of the New School group-mates linked up with like-minded rap group A Tribe Called Quest for what would go down as one of the most iconic rap songs. Tasked with closing out the proceedings, Busta does more than anchor the track, he revolutionizes the way we think of the last verse on any given rap song, particularly a posse cut. He turned the moment into a climax and the main event. Despite being up to par lyrically and chock-full of memorable bars, it’s not as much what Busta says, but how he says it. The Brooklyn native roared and raved over the beat in a manner that was unlike anything the average rap fan had experienced at that point. Less than two months removed from the release of Leaders of the New School’s own debut album, Busta’s future was all but set with this performance, which serves as the moment a rap star was born.
Standout Lyrics: “Watch, as I combine all the juice from the mind/Heel up, wheel up, bring it back, come, rewind/Powerful impact (Boom!) from the cannon!/Not bragging, tryna read my mind, just imagine/Vo-cab-u-lary’s necessary/When diggin’ into my library/Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh!/Eating Ital Stew like the one Peter Tosh/Unh! Unh! Unh! All over the track, man/Unh, pardon me, unh! As I come back!”
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