Throwback Thursday: “Scenario” By A Tribe Called Quest Feat. Leaders of the New School (1991)

Above: "Scenario" by A Tribe Called Quest
Above: "Scenario" by A Tribe Called Quest

What: “Scenario”

When: 1991

By: A Tribe Called Quest featuring Leaders of the New School

From the album: The Low End Theory

The reason for the throwback: You mean beside the fact that this is one of the greatest hip hop tracks of all-time?

We’re once again stuck in an era where far too many pop songs feature the latest rapper du jour delivering a guest verse for no real reason and where hip hop itself is littered with posse cuts.

While some of them are on point (example: “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled) there are a lot of them that sound like they were thrown together through a process known as “Hey — who else can we get on this record?” There is no actual connection between the artists, their styles don’t mesh, and the song suffers as a result.

And “Scenario” is the blueprint anyone looking to do a posse record should follow.

For starters, you had connected groups — A Tribe Called Quest and Leaders of the New School — that had a clear chemistry together. This wasn’t four or five solo artists coming together to drop 16 bars a piece, each one looking to outshine the other four; this was two groups looking to make a great track.

Mission accomplished.

Secondly, “Scenario” opened and closed with memorable verses — one from an established name at the time, the other from a voice that would go on to eclipse everyone on the record in the next five years.

Phife Dawg’s “Bo know this (what?)/And Bo knows that (what?)/But Bo don’t know jack /Cuz Bo can’t rap!” set this song in motion and showcased one of the more underrated MCs of the day, but the verse that really sent this song into the stratosphere was Busta Rhymes being Busta Rhymes to close things out.

Today, we know all about Busta Rhymes — his style, his flow, and his collection of hits at the end of the 90s where he was one of the biggest selling artists in the business. Busta Rhymes was so hot at one point that he made a solid crossover into being a supporting actor in quality films like Higher Learning and Finding Forrester.

But in 1991, no one saw Busta Rhymes coming and his verse on “Scenario” became the catalyst for everything that followed. It was his large scale introduction to the music world as a whole and anyone that listened to hip hop in that time can remember his “Rawr—Rawr like a dungeon dragon” line, which he coupled with “Change your little drawers cause your pants were saggin’ by the way.

Third — and this is the part that makes me sound old — this is when hip hop was good. I’m not a “Get these damn kids off my lawn” type, but for me, today’s hip hop isn’t as good as the stuff that was around in my youth. It’s not because I’m nostalgic (at least not wholly), but because it wasn’t all computers and auto-tune and cursing and lyrics that can’t be played on radio our repeated at a standard driving in your car with the windows down level.

The final element that earns “Scenario” a nod as today’s Throwback Thursday is the hilarity of this line from the Leaders of the New School’s Charlie Brown in the middle of the song:

From radio, to the video, to Arsenio
Tell me! Yo, what’s the scenario?

The fact that 13 years later, radio is a dying medium, videos have migrated from television to YouTube, but Arsenio Hall is now back with a revamped version of his old talk show is too amazing not to touch upon.

Go download “Scenario,” plus the rest of The Low End Theory, People’s Instinctive Travels, and Midnight Marauders. Grab the Lucy Pearl album too.

More musical throwbacks to come… keep listening.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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