Often times HipHop tracks don't age very well. Even some of the most groundbreaking milestones of this amazing culture, tracks like The Main Ingredient by Pete Rock and CL Smooth, are clearly bound to their time. You can hear it from all sorts of things. The sample choice and the chopping, the selection of drum sounds and of course the rap style.
I don't think this is such a bad thing. New people entering the stage, bringing in new influences and ideas – forcing everybody to keep up with the latest techniques and developments.
But with this constant pressure for innovation comes the downside that most tracks sound pretty dated after only a couple of years.
Many artists therefore claim that they are not aiming for tracks but aiming for classics, but imho only very few actually do. And I know almost no other track that manages to achieve this status like this one.
It's a phantastic combination of creativity and craft, where everything is reduced to a point that you couldn't remove a thing without tearing the whole construct apart.
The sample choice (Maynard Ferguson, Mister Mellow) is simply perfect, giving the beat a smooth, solid foundation to rest on, while a super compressed, low cut kick performs drum rolls beneath it. – A thing you usually wouldn't expect to hear in a HipHop beat.
This extremely unexcited, but sovereign beat makes room for A.G. to lay down a perfect battle track. – But he doesn't feel like he has to shout. With this beat and his skills, there seems to be no reason to get excited. Everybody immediately understands what time it is. And I agree!
This thing is almost 30 years old! When it came out, even the almighty The Roots still sounded as if they were listening to A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory album on a daily basis.
But by leaving things out and just coming up with a sovereign appearance, they managed to put something together, that I would truly call a Hip Hop classic!
Ah, and if you know anything about golden era east coast HipHop, you will not be too surprised to learn that it is a DJ Premier production.