Butter – Unpacking the Smooth Nostalgia and Cautionary Tales

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Tribe Called Quest's Butter at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. Nostalgic Beats and High School Sweets
  5. When the Game of Love Plays You
  6. Rhythmic Reflections on Self-Worth and Authenticity
  7. Hidden Meanings Amongst the Memorable Lines
  8. Cultural Impact Through Smooth Delivery


1988 Senior Year, Garvey High

Where all the guys were corny but the girls were mad fly

Lounging with the Tipster, Cooling with Sha

Scoping out the honeys, they know who they are

I was the B-ball playing fly rhyme saying

Fly girl getting but never was I sweating

‘Cause when it came to honeys I would go on a stroll

Until I met my match, her name was Flo

Yeah – I messed around with the one called Flo

All the troopers round the way used to call her a ho

But deep down in my heart I knew that Flo was good to go

‘Cause I thought it was me, like Bell Biv Devoe

But little did I know that she was playin’ with my mind

The only thing I learned is, good girls are hard to find

I feel like Heavy D I need somebody for me

Not someone who’s mind is blank and tryin’ to juice me for my bank

Swingin’ with my main man Lucky behind my back

What type of crap is that, yo, how’s about a smack?

Word life, I can’t front, thought I was all that

But now it seems, I met my match

Was a stone cold lover, you couldn’t tell me jack

Settlin’ down with one girl, wasn’t tryin’ to hear that

I had Tonya, Tamika, Sharon, Karen

Tina, Stacy, Julie, Tracy

Used ta love ’em, leave ’em, skeeze ’em, tease ’em

Find ’em, lose ’em, also abuse ’em

My whole attitude was new day, next hon

And believe it or not, they all got done

Well here comes Flo, with the crazy whip appeal

And I’m all true man, like Alexander O’Neal

Is this really love, then again, how would I know

After all this time tryin’ to be a superhoe

She finally played me, but yo, I’d find another

‘Cause I got the crazy game and yo, I’m smooth like butter

Butter, like butter baby

Butter, like butter baby

Not no Parkay, not no margarine

Strickly butter baby, strictly butter

I remember when

Girls were goodie two shoes, but now they turned to freaks

Allofasudden “We love you Phife” ease of ho, my name’s Malik

Phife this, Phife that, where you goin’, where you at

These girls don’t know me from jack, yet I feel like the Mack

You didn’t want me then, so hon, don’t want me now

Here, here, take the towel, wipe off your brow

And take the contact out your eye, you’re far from lookin’ fly

You get an E for effort, and T for nice try

Now tell me what’s the reason, for dyin’ your hair

Slum village gold still dangling in your ear

You barely have a neck but still sportin’ a rope

Four-finger ring just so Phifer can scope

You looked in the mirror, didn’t know what to do

Yesterday your eyes were brown but today they are blue

Your whole appearance is a lie and it could never be true

And if you really loved yourself then you would try and be you

If your hair and eyes were real, I wouldn’t have dissed ya

But since it was bought, I had to dismiss ya

If you can’t achieve it, then why not try and weave it

If you can’t extend it then you might as well suspend it

If you can’t braid it, best thing to do is fade it

I asked who did your hair and you tell me “Diane made it”

If you were you and just you, talk to you, maybe

But I can’t stand, no bionic lady

Tryin’ hard to look fly, but yo, you’re lookin’ dumber

If I wanted someone like you I woulda swung with Jamie Summers

You want to be treated right, see Father MC

Or check Ralph Tresvant, for sens-a-tiv-I-ty

See I am not the one, I got more game than Parker Brothers

Phife Dog is on the mic and I’m smooth like Butter

Full Lyrics

A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Butter’ is more than just a smooth, jazzy beat – it’s a lyrical time capsule that encapsulates the trials and tribulations of teenage love, self-discovery, and the pitfalls of superficial attraction. Its inclusion on 1991’s ‘The Low End Theory’ serves as the album’s narrative pivot, where Q-Tip’s introspective rhymes foreground a timeless story.

From the boulevard of broken dreams to the street-smart philosophy of relationship woes, ‘Butter’ spreads itself across the bread of hip-hop culture’s coming-of-age story. It’s a track that eases through the ears but knock on the walls of deeper social reflections, simmering in the minds of listeners decades after its release.

Nostalgic Beats and High School Sweets

1991 was a much different time – walking down the halls of Garvey High, ‘Butter’ opens with a portrait of youthful innocence, a bustling school arena where boys and girls chart the spirited map of early attractions and social hierarchies. Through Q-Tip’s verse, Tribe Called Quest layers this lighthearted imagery over a beat that calmly belies the more complex web of self-identity and peer perception.

It’s a ‘fly girl’ anthem turned self-examination session, as the protagonist thought himself immune to the emotional booby traps of young love. The high school setting serves as the backdrop for larger themes of maturation and vulnerability that stitched through the fabric of adolescence.

When the Game of Love Plays You

Q-Tip’s character, once the player in control, gets his world tossed upside-down by ‘Flo’. But instead of painting Flo in a negative light, the lyrics of ‘Butter’ delve into the arresting realization that the game of love isn’t just skin deep. The narrative arc from confident ladies’ man to a humbled soul is not just a personal tale but an echo of a generational attitude shift towards relationship dynamics.

The journey with ‘Flo’ becomes a bittersweet metaphor for growing up and facing reality’s music. This part of the track serves as a lesson – one that highlights the importance of genuine connections over superficial flings. It’s a nod to the notion that real love isn’t about conquest or self-gain, but about mutual respect and understanding.

Rhythmic Reflections on Self-Worth and Authenticity

Q-Tip’s critique of a cosmetically altered woman isn’t a cheap jab but a mirror to society’s obsession with artificial standards of beauty. The clever jabs at artificial hair and eye color highlight the broader theme of authenticity. The Tribe emphasized the importance of self-love and the dangers of losing oneself in the seas of societal pressures.

The distinction he makes between genuine and faux expressions of one’s persona isn’t just biting commentary – it’s an invitation to listeners to contemplate their own definitions of self and how they choose to project that to the world. The group holds up a standard that isn’t about high fashion or brand names but about the ‘butter’- the real, the pure, the genuine essence of a person.

Hidden Meanings Amongst the Memorable Lines

Beyond the immediate tales of teenage love and coming of age, ‘Butter’ is a song fraught with hidden meanings. Each verse presents a unique insight into life lessons around relationships, identity, and self-perception. The repeated ‘butter’, for instance, becomes a symbol for something rich, real, and effortlessly smooth – a benchmark for living authentically and a metaphor for graceful transformation in the face of life’s complexities.

Whether it’s the mention of Father MC and Ralph Tresvant as icons of gentlemanly love or the Jamie Summers’ reference that lands with a humorous pop, each line pulls double duty, entertaining while leaving pockets of wisdom for those keen enough to catch them.

Cultural Impact Through Smooth Delivery

A Tribe Called Quest’s delivery on ‘Butter’ is memorably slick. The relaxed flow, paired with intentional pauses and emphases, allows every word to melt in the listener’s mind, proving that you don’t need aggressive beats or fast raps to make a powerful point. The smoothness of ‘Butter’ breathes life into the lessons it imparts, echoing the sentiment that true style isn’t forced; it comes naturally, like butter on warm toast.

The real stickiness of this track comes from how it resonates with listeners long after the record stops spinning. As the group dissects themes of superficiality and materialism, their flowing cadence is just as impactful today as it was in the 90s, ensuring that the legacy of ‘Butter’ continues to influence the rap genre and its aficionados alike.

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