Sunday, February 22, 2009

Let Us Remember: "Get It Together"

Listening to J. Period's mega Q-Tip mixtape The Abstract Best (which would be flat out amazing if not for over half the songs being edited for profanity; seriously, what's the deal with that? In the words of Christian Bale, "It's fucking distracting..."), I was reminded of the unimpeachable genius of "Get It Together."

I remember when I first listened to Ill Communication, my first thought was "Why so few rap songs?" You get Buddhist chants, soul jazz interludes, skate punk, and like five rap songs. But those rap songs are all brilliant. "Sure Shot"? "Flute Loop"? "Get It Together"? "Root Down"? I get chills remembering the joy I felt when those songs came on. They were basically the prize for sitting through the Beasties' self-indulgent moments.

The key to what makes "Get It Together" so great is that it sounds like four friends just screwing around, bouncing off each other's punchlines and bragging in a way that's more silly than serious ("Heart like John Starks"?). It makes you realize how rare that kind of thing is in rap today. While I'm sure Lil' Wayne could just geek out on a song like this, it's hard to imagine any other rappers as popular as the Beasties and Q-Tip were back then ever allowing themselves to be this goofy.

The beat, which samples Grand Funk Railroad, Fred Wesley (of the JBs), Eugene McDaniels, and a Moog Machine version of "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In," sounds deceptively simple, like it's just a fuzzy bassline and drums until the chorus comes. I can hear a faint organ sound underneath the bassline, but it mostly seems like the rappers are carrying the melody themselves with the changes of pitch in their voices.

One of my favorite moments in the song is when MCA says he's "a praying mantis on the court and I can't be beat/Yo, Tip, what's up with the boots on your feet?" and Q-Tip answers "I got the Timbos on my toes and this is how it goes.." and then cracks up laughing, saying "Oh, one two, oh my God" and a sample from Tribe's "Oh My God" pops up all the sudden. The way they've clearly taken a mistake made in the booth and turned it not only into part of the song, but built on it with the sample is just the coolest thing.