Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Lone Ranger On the Mic

Did you guys know that the real Long Ranger, like the actual legendarily historical figure, was black? Well, he was. People gave Disney a lot of (not necessarily unwarranted) flack for casting a white celebrity as Tonto, the Ranger's Native American sidekick. But how about how, even after all of the Ranger's incarnations on radio, television and film; Disney still felt the need to cast one of the most white-bread actors they could find to portray the Ranger? Hell, pretty much the only time in mass media we've had the Ranger portrayed properly as a black man is when Q-Tip took on the mantle in 1998.

Yeah, if you missed that little moment in history, it was after Tribe had released their final album, and before any of them had gone solo. Tip was the first to venture onto the market with a little white label 12" and a pseudonym. He probably chose it precisely because the Ranger was a famous secret identity, the masked man... even the real guy was considered a master of disguise. He then went on to release material as Kamaal the Abstract before finally re embracing his popular identity as Q-Tip.

So, there's actually two versions of this 12". One has a credited label: Walis Records, but it's their only release, so it's practically a white label, though they did have a mailing address. I believe the name is a reference to the teachings of Meher Baba, a spiritualist I gather Tip was/ is into. But anyway, then there's this version, which is better because it has both the one song and instrumental from the Walis version, plus a bunch more material unique to this pressing. So this is the one with everything and the one to own. Plus, I believe it came out first. And none of this material ever wound up on Tip's subsequent albums or projects.

So the first track is called "It's Yours" and yes, it's a(nother) remake of T-La Rock's classic.  Now you might be thinking, Q-Tip's a lot of things: a great producer, a smooth rhymer, a multi-talented artist... but he doesn't really have the hardcore punch of a T-La Rock when it comes to his flow. So how Tip hope to touch it? But it's actually because he has such a different vibe that it works. Typically, "It's Yours" remakes come off as close but not quite as compelling as the original, which leaves you ultimately wondering =: well, what was the point of that? But Tip gives it a whole new energy. Although he starts out with the famous opening lines, "commentating, illustrating..." and cuts in the famous horn stab of the original, after that it's completely different. Vocally and lyrically, it's pure Q-Tip. Calm, head bopping, addictive. But it still has tight turntable cuts. It keeps coming back to the original, with its famous moments like, "do you like? (Yeah.) Do you want it? (Yeah!)" or "I don't know... if it's true..." But they're totally transformed. I daresay, it may actually be one of the most successful hip-hop remakes in the genre.

Now comparing the labels, it would appear that only the Walis 12" has the instrumental. But actually, that's not true. Even though it's not printed on the label, this white label version actually has the instrumental, too. Again, this is the definitive of the two.

Next we have a track called "Moneymaker." It's similar in tone to "It's Yours" minus the T-La Rock elements. It's got a strong piano riff and some really bassy drums. It doesn't quite have the energy of the first song without the old school hardcore connections, and the "shake your moneymaker" hook isn't exactly inspired conceptually; but it's definitely another smooth head nodder for any Tip fan. And it's not at all sloppy, sing-songy and discordant like his subsequently shelved Abstract album turned out to be. No, this is what that album should've been.

Then on the back, we get an early Consequence solo track. Younger readers may not realize, but long before he was writing for G.O.O.D. Music and dissing Kanye West, Consequence was Tip's protege, having debuted on Midnight Marauders and becoming a much bigger part of Beats, Rhymes and Life, to the point where he was essentially the fifth Tribe member. Or, as one of my fellow bloggers would put it, before he was Kanye's weed carrier, he was Q-Tip's.  Here, I guess he's our Tonto.

In fact, I believe he's Tip's cousin. And so it's thanks to this connection that he gets to share this comeback 12", And yes, his song here is produced by Tip as well. He even provides the hook. It's called "The Consequences," and it's pretty good. The beat is simple and mostly effective, though the lead sample is weak and a little bit annoying. But it's all played low-key to showcase Consequence's rhymes, where he flexes a rawer, more punchline-y flow. Very 90s. The unspoken message is that he's the more lyrical, younger cat of the next generation. But he never really says anything that impressive (and like Necro, falls back on including a Dolly Parton bust size reference straight out of a 1970s kindergarten schoolyard). He's got a nice flow, though, and I wouldn't have minded hearing this remixed on a subsequent album. But as it is, it's mostly just serves as a collector's piece for Q-Tip completists. Oh, and there's an uncredited instrumental version of this song hidden away on the vinyl here, too.

So there you have it, folks. Pretty much the one time in our American, cultural history that the Long Ranger was done right. If anything, it might've set the bar a little too high for Tip's solo career. So it definitely belongs in your crates. Lasso one up and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Hi-Yo Silver, and away!


  1. You say that "none of this material ever wound up on Tip's subsequent albums or projects" - however, "Money Maker" was one of the bonus tracks on Tribe's "The Love Movement" album, alongside previously released b-sides and "Hot Sex" which interestingly had already been a bonus track on the European pressing of "Midnight Marauders". I think that the Lone Ranger white label came out first, but I'm not sure.

    1. Oh, hey! I never knew about that LE version with the extra tracks. Coolness. 8)

  2. Thanks for the post. very interesting one.