Hip Hop legends Marley Marl and Mr. Magic assembled a renowned group of artists (predominantly from Queensbridge with a couple coming out of Brooklyn). This astonishing collective consisted of: Roxanne Shante, MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Biz Markie, Masta Ace, Craig G, Tragedy the Intelligent Hoodlum and TJ Swann. The Juice Crew would record a slew of records that were renowned as a group and individually. But they took their legendary status to another plateau with the unrivaled track, ”The Symphony” on Marley’s album, In Control, Volume 1.
One major entity that made “The Symphony” standout was Marley’s ability to create a unique beat that would introduce a more sophisticated approach to sampling records. During a time of no sampling laws, Marley had a wide variety of music to choose from to complement his intricate production skill. He decided to sample the idiosyncratic piano from Otis Redding’s classic, “Hard To Handle” and built around the loop to form the base of the song. Marley knew his production had to match the finesse the emcees would come with, so he created a timeless masterpiece that put heads in a euphoric state once the piano blared through their speakers. After the foundation was set, the next step was to find which emcees could compliment Marley’s energizing beat.
Initially, the four emcees that were supposed to be on the record were: Kool G Rap, MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane and Craig G. They all met at Marley’s house in Astoria, Queens, along with Masta Ace, who wasn’t supposed to be on the track. Ace was just happy to be a part of the studio session not realizing he was about to receive one of the best introductions Hip Hop had ever seen.
MC Shan was Marley’s first choice but Shan felt he had too big of a name to be on a song with new upcoming artists, so he declined. This interesting change of events led Masta Ace to receive the distinguished role of being the first emcee on the mic. There was some apprehension as to who would go first but Marley encouraged Ace to step up and spit what he had. So Ace pulled a rhyme out of his head and laid down a solid verse that set the tone for Hip Hop’s first posse cut.
Ace opened “The Symphony” with an energetic flow that captured our attention and had an authoritative verve that made you forget he was a rookie. Ace was assertive and cocky and left no one to believe he was not as seasoned as the other Juice Crew members. His smooth flow blended perfectly with the energy of the beat that he rode with ease.
Although he was only fifteen, Craig G stepped in with his charismatic flow that allowed him to paint a vivid picture through lyrical wordplay. He shut down his naysayers who questioned his skill with a verse that commanded respect but also let the Hip Hop world know he had the due diligence to take any emcees spot if given the chance.
As one of the more seasoned emcees on the track, Kool G Rap brought a raw and gritty verse that revealed why he would become so influential. He let loose with an uncompromising tone that had a sleek yet eerie feel. His metaphors were clever and his lyrical precision and technical expertise held the very component that made “The Symphony” so profound. Big Daddy Kane, who also had a solid name brought forth one of the best verses of his career. Kane was at the top of his game spitting line after line of lyrical eloquence filled with crisp analogies that infused the true definition of a master of ceremony. His rhyme schemes were second to none as he closed out the song that would define the first golden era.
“The Symphony” was a revolutionary track that had a historical impact that went far beyond being the first posse cut on wax. Not only did it become an introductory platform for some of our most treasured talents; it reconstructed the rap game by ushering in the concept of a crew. Marley and Magic’s idea to bring forth a posse full of the best emcees became an outline for collectives like Wu-Tang and the Boot Camp Clik. Overall, “The Symphony” has aged gracefully over the last twenty-years and still holds up as one of the greatest Hip Hop songs of all time.