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Meaning of ‘Scenario’ by ‘A Tribe Called Quest’ feat. Busta Rhymes

Released: 1991 • Features: Busta Rhymes, Dinco D, Charlie Brown

A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” is a celebrated 90s anthem that captures the group’s lyrical prowess, exceptional wordplay, and charismatic delivery. Laced with cultural references and in-jokes, it’s a masterclass in hip-hop’s storytelling tradition. The song’s underlying theme centers around the Tribe’s assertion of their dominance in the hip-hop arena, laying down a clear challenge to any doubters. It also pays homage to the rich tapestry of urban culture, blending everyday experiences with the vibrant language of the streets.

Beginning with the hook, “Here we go yo, here we go yo / So what so what so what’s the scenario,” the Tribe sets an upbeat rhythm for the lyrical journey ahead. The line “Bo don’t know jack, cause Bo can’t rap” refers to Bo Jackson, a two-sport prodigy in baseball and football. Yet the Tribe humorously emphasizes his inability to rap, highlighting their unique skill set and underlining their claim to the hip-hop throne.

When they say “Gots to get the loot so I can bring home the bacon,” they’re using slang language to express the constant grind and hustle within the music industry. “Loot” is a common term for money in hip-hop, while “bring home the bacon” is a colloquialism for providing for oneself or one’s family. The Tribe’s assertion that they’ve “been known to do the impossible like Broadway Joe” pays homage to legendary New York Jets QB Joe Namath, who famously guaranteed a Super Bowl III victory.

In the second verse, the lyric “The word is the herb and I’m deep like Bob Marley” cleverly links the zeitgeist of the ’90s with Marley’s advocacy for marijuana – or “herb”. The line “East coast stompin, rippin and rompin / New York, North Cak-a-laka, and Compton” is a shout-out to the major hip-hop hubs of the era, while “Boom bip with a brother named Tip and we’re ready to flip” proudly acknowledges their collaboration with fellow Tribe member Q-Tip, alluding to the creative energy they’re about to unleash.

Busta Rhymes upends the track with an adrenaline-packed verse stating, “Watch, as I combine all the juice from the mind / Heel up, reel up, bring it back, come rewind”. This vivid imagery describes the thought process involved in crafting his complex rhymes, likening it to a mental workout. When he says, “Eating ayea toadstool like the one Peter Tosh-a,” he’s comparing his psychedelic lyrical flow to eating hallucinogenic mushrooms, likening his creatively charged state to a “trip”.

The recurring “Here we go yo, here we go yo / So what so what so what’s the scenario” is both the song’s rallying cry and a statement of purpose. It encapsulates the Tribe’s determination to break new ground in hip-hop and make their distinct mark. Overall, “Scenario” is a testament to the power of collective creativity, showcasing how a group of uniquely gifted artists can come together to produce a memorable classic that reverberates through hip-hop history.

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