This ’96 Freestyle From Tribe, Busta, The Roots & More Packs Lines That Truly Punch (Audio)
The City of Brotherly Love has undoubtedly produced some of Hip-Hop’s best MCs to ever grip the mic, and equally, some of the greatest DJs to touch the turntables. Legendary Philadelphia DJ Cash Money has an extensive resumé with memorable mixtapes to prove the latter. After making seminal 1980s 12″ “Ugly People Be Quiet” with Marvelous Marv, Cash started distributing his tapes on a bigger scale.
Among the former DMC world champion’s catalog, 1996’s Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner features some amazing off-the-dome freestyles. Seven of Philly and NYC’s most storied lyricists came together on one joint. Clocking in at almost 14 minutes, this all-star lineup included former Gang Starr Foundation affiliate Bahamadia, Black Thought and Malik B (then) of The Roots, Q-Tip and the late Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, plus Busta Rhymes. As if Gang Starr family, The Illa-Fifth Dynamite, and Native Tongues was not enough, Juice Crew’s Biz Markie plays clean-up.
Bahamadia set off the cipher to represent the 215 with her relaxed, syllable-twisting rhyme style to a hot beat. Following her came longtime cohorts Q-Tip and Bussa Buss’ who spit straight fire over a bass-heavy groove. Their improvised lyrics were so dope that both reused the beat and most of their same verses for a more polished version titled “Wild Hot” for the 1997 Rap documentary Rhyme and Reason soundtrack.
In third came Phife Dawg, who arguably had the best, and most incendiary freestyle over a chill keyboard and snare instrumental. The 5-Foot-Assassin used his seamless ability to fit a wide array of sports metaphors in his bars, namely the ’90s-era NBA to cite his first love of basketball. Also, in similar fashion to Q-Tip, who called out the Hammer on A Tribe Called Quest’s single “Check The Rhime,” Phife went the distance to double down on Q-Tip’s barb with an additional diss of the early ’90s Rap superstar.
“It’s like that and uh / I got the ill grammar / F*ck that p*ssy n*gga better known as MC Hammer / Yeah, you p*ssy ni**a, I’m not hearing ya / Now you know how I shook the whole Bay Area.”
Hammer was of course running with Tupac, Suge Knight and Death Row Records in the 9-6, but that didn’t stop Phife to kick the Oakland rapper. Five years in, some beefs were clearly not put to rest.
The fourth and fifth MCs, Black Thought and Malik B, came all the way live from the 215 to represent their proclaimed “Fifth Dynasty.” Black Thought tears it up, as he’s done so many times in the 21 years since. Malik B spent much of his freestyle to diss Bone Thugs-N-Harmony:
“All in the city / Man it’s just a pity how these MCs suck just like a t*tty / Never acting like pretty like Al Capone / My style is never like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony / Them ni**as couldn’t step around without the Charmin / The member of my army will take ’em for bad / Going home to their moms sad faced / Don’t know their style will get erased / Their sh*t is a disgrace to this industry / My Rap chemistry is simply made up of sh*t that overthrows / Ni**as like them / Up in their nose like Rudolph / Simple-ass reindeer clowns.”
The Cleveland doubled-time rappers were at the height of their fame in 1996, and it’s clear that Malik was sending shots up Rap’s food chain. He recently made the collaboration album Unpredictable in 2015, with producer Mr. Green.
Closing out the freestyle, Rap’s most revered comedic oddball Biz Markie ended the session with a whimsical flow over a slowed down version of his Juice Crew partner Big Daddy Kane’s “Smooth Operator” instrumental. Overall, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner packs hilarious skits and dope cuts. Cash Money featured drops from Hip-Hop’s finest, and some of the best underground and classic tunes released during the mid-’90s.
#BonusBeat: For those looking for a full listen, here is the full mixtape, in two sides:
This released on Cash Money’s own Spoiled Brat imprint.