Jazz (We’ve Got) – Unraveling the Layers of Hip-Hop’s Love Letter to Jazz

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for A Tribe Called Quest's Jazz (We've Got) at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Prophetic Entrance of Q-Tip
  5. Hidden Meanings Within The Tribe’s Soundscape
  6. Phife Dawg’s Nod to Hip-Hop’s Competitive Spirit
  7. The Unique Interplay of Jazz and Hip-Hop
  8. Memorable Lines that Bridge Generations



We got the jazz [X4]

Verse One: Q-Tip

Stern firm and young with a laid-back tongue
The aim is to succeed and achieve at 21
Just like Ringling Brothers, I’ll daze and astound
Captivate the mass, cause the prose is profound

Do it for the strong, we do it for the meek
Boom it in your boom it in your boom it in your Jeep
Or your Honda or your Beemer or your Legend or your Benz
The rave of the town to your foes and your friends

So push it, along, trails, we blaze
Don’t deserve the gong, don’t deserve the praise
The tranquility will make ya unball your fist
For we put hip-hop on a brand new twist

A brand new twist with the homie-alistic
So low-key that ya probably missed it
And yet it’s so loud that it stands in the crowd
When the guy takes the beat, they bowed

So raise up squire, address your attire
We have no time to wallow in the mire
If you’re on a foreign path, then let me do the lead
Join in the essence of the cool-out breed

Then cool out to the music cuz it makes ya feel serene
Like the birds and the bees and all those groovy things
Like getting stomach aches when ya gotta go to work
Or staring into space when you’re feeling berserk

I don’t really mind if it’s over your head
Cuz the job of resurrectors is to wake up the dead
So pay attention, it’s not hard to decipher
And after the horns, you can check out the Phifer


Verse Two: Phife Dawg

Competition, dem Phifer come sideway
But competition, dey mus’ me come straightway
Competition, dem Phifer come sideway
But competition, dey mus’ come straightway

Hows about that, it seems like it’s my turn again
All through the years my mike has been my best friend
I know some brothers wonder, can Phifer really kick it?
Some even wanna dis me, but why sweat it?

I’m all into my music cuz it’s how I make papes
Tryin’ to make hits, like Kid Capri makes tapes
Me sweat another? I do my own thing
Strictly hardcore tracks, not a new jack swing

I grew up as a Christian so to Jah I give thanks
Collect my banks, listen to Shabba Ranks
I sing, and chat, I do all of that
It’s 1991 and I refuse to come wack

I take off my hat to other crews that intend to rock
But the Low End Theory’s here, it’s time to wreck shop
I got Tip and Shah, so whom shall I fear
Stop look and listen, but please don’t stare

So jet to the store, and buy the LP
On Jive/RCA, cassettes and CD’s
Produced and arranged by the four-man crew
And oh shit, Skiff Anselm, he gets props too

Make sure you have a system with some phat house speakers
So the new shit can rock, from Mars to Massapequa
Cuz where I come from quality is job one
And everybody up on Linden know we get the job done

So peace to that crew, and peace to this crew
Bring on the tour, we’ll see you at a theatre nearest you

Verse Three: Q-Tip

Hey yo but wait, back it up, hup, easy back it up
Please let the Abstract embellish on the cut

Back and forth just like a Cameo song
If you dig this joint then please come dance along
To the music cuz it’s done just for the rhyme
Now I gotta scat and get mine, underline

The jazz, the what? The jazz can move that ass
Cuz the Tribe originates that feelin’ of pizzazz
It’s the universal sound, best to brothers underground
In the one-six below, ya didn’t have to go

Some say that I’m a sinner cuz I once had an orgy
And sometimes for breakfast I eat grits and porgies
If this is a stinker, then call me a stink, I ask
“What? What? What?” – now check it out

All my peoples in Queens ya don’t stop
Now all my peoples in Brooklyn ya don’t stop
And all my peoples uptown ya don’t stop
That includes the Bronx a’ Harlem ya don’t stop

Now to that girl Ramelle ya don’t stop
I say because Ladies First ya don’t stop
And to the JB’s, ya don’t stop
And De La Soul, ya don’t stop

To my Brand Nubians ya don’t stop
And to my Leaders of the New ya don’t stop
To my man Large Professor ya don’t stop
Pete Rock for the beat ya don’t stop

Everybody in the place ya don’t stop
Ya keep it on, to the rhythm, ya don’t stop
And last but not least on the sure shot
It’s the Zulu nation

Full Lyrics

When A Tribe Called Quest spilled ‘Jazz (We’ve Got)’ into the hip-hop amphitheater, they delivered more than just an auditory experience – they imparted a sonic manifesto. The track, nestled within their groundbreaking 1991 album ‘The Low End Theory,’ wasn’t solely an homage to the rhythms and grooves that underpin jazz, it was a declaration of artistic liberation, a celebration of cultural lineage, and a medium for social commentary, all the while thumping to a bassline that could rock the Earth off its axis.

Delving into ‘Jazz (We’ve Got)’, we find a lyrical complexity and a musicality that speaks volumes on the intersection of jazz and hip-hop. But like the most captivating of jazz solos, it demands an attuned ear to unravel its nuances. A Tribe Called Quest uses their platform to illustrate a rich tapestry of black music, contributing to the ever-evolving dialogue of what it means to innovate within a genre rooted in both oppression and expression.

The Prophetic Entrance of Q-Tip

From the moment Q-Tip’s voice infiltrates the groove, ‘Jazz (We’ve Got)’ journeys beyond mere song into a realm of conscious prose. Drawing comparisons to Ringling Brothers, Tip signifies the group’s intention to captivate and astonish, suggesting that their artistry is akin to the most wondrous of spectacles. The reference to ‘succeed and achieve at 21’ is a layered nugget hinting at both youthful aspiration and the early 21st century, prescient of hip-hop’s expansion and influence into the new millennium.

Yet, as he underlines the reach of their music – transcending the types of cars their listeners might drive – he subtly anarchizes the icons of material success. The Tribe doesn’t require the ‘gong or the praise’, desiring instead to recalibrate our collective fist-clenching to tranquility, and in the process, distort the often commodified narrative of hip-hop.

Hidden Meanings Within The Tribe’s Soundscape

The track’s insistence – ‘We got the jazz’ – is an affirmation that resonates at the depth of cultural identity. Here, jazz is not merely a genre, but a metaphor for the group’s authenticity and its roots in a tradition of African American improvisation and creativity. A Tribe Called Quest posits jazz as an archetype, suggesting that what they’ve got is a genetic imprint, a sound entwined with its predecessors, bringing a ‘brand new twist’ on an age-old story.

Moreover, ‘Jazz (We’ve Got)’ serves as a coded message, ‘so low-key that ya probably missed it,’ to point out the oblivious disregard mainstream culture often has towards the subtleties and significance of the genres birthed by minority communities. Yet, despite this, their sound ‘stands in the crowd’ – a nod to its undeniable resonance and the perseverance of a musical lineage.

Phife Dawg’s Nod to Hip-Hop’s Competitive Spirit

Phife Dawg’s verses break ground, squaring up to hip-hop’s competitive nature. By referring to the ‘competition,’ Phife acknowledges the constant battle for recognition within the music industry, while simultaneously calling for the competition to approach directly, ‘straightway’. This desire for straightforwardness is a call out against subterfuge and a reminder of the straightforward, raw origin of hip-hop battles.

His reverence for the craft accentuates how the pursuit of artistry, over monetary gain ‘making papes’, remains the core tenet of their work. Phife champions authenticity by ‘doing his own thing’, an anthem for those who remain true to the roots of their art regardless of prevailing trends, which by 1991 had veered towards ‘new jack swing’.

The Unique Interplay of Jazz and Hip-Hop

The rhythmic backbone of ‘Jazz (We’ve Got)’, grounded in samples and a bassline that would not be out of place in a smoky jazz club, is more than just a background for lyrics; it’s a character in its own right. The Tribe’s sound is an alchemy of beats that service hip-hop while hearkening back to the improvisational spirit of jazz. This interplay creates an intersection where the ‘universal sound’ dwells and the ‘brothers underground’ are hailed – a recognition of those who may not have commercial acclaim but nevertheless shape the cultural zeitgeist.

True to their commitment to cross-genre pollination, the infusion of jazz elements within their hip-hop composition isn’t just an act of fusion, but a strategic intermarriage intended to move ‘that ass’. They point to the potency of jazz’s influence, its capacity to invoke both movement and emotion, and its place in the pantheon of black music.

Memorable Lines that Bridge Generations

As the track resolves, the hook’s repetition becomes a mantra, a reminder to the listener of the group’s entrenchment in jazz influences. Yet, it’s in their shout-outs that we truly perceive A Tribe Called Quest’s tapestry of inspirations and alliances. From the ‘Linden’ crew to nods towards the ‘JBs’, ‘De La Soul’, and the ‘Zulu nation’, we bear witness to a fellowship of artists and movements that crosses boroughs and aesthetic boundaries.

These names are not merely peers in the neighborhood of sound; they are the extended family in an ever-expanding narrative of hip-hop history. By referencing the legacies within and without their contemporaneous circle, A Tribe Called Quest both honors and embeds themselves within a continuum of influential black artists who illustrate the powerful intersection of past and future, aligning the beats of their forbears with the pulse of the modern streets.

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