"1nce Again" (1996)
Q-Tip was one of the earliest champions of J Dilla's muted, punchy, sample-distending production. He became enamored with it shortly after P-Funk keyboardist Amp Fiddler introduced him to the producer at a '94 Michigan Lollapalooza tour stop. Tip invited the young beat constructer, then known professionally as Jay Dee, to join the Ummah production squad. The first single from ATCQ's fourth album, "1nce Again," is one of the first major tastes of his sound: rap as a woozy, chopped funhouse mirror. Smarter critics got it, but pulling a dark, moody There's a Riot Goin' On move after the giddy smash of "Award Tour" felt anticlimactic; having R&B singer Tammy Lucas handle the hook was anathema to true-school heads; and ATCQ documentary director Michael Rapaport even calls the track "the beginning of the end." Still, there was very little out there like this at the time, and "1nce Again" predicted some of the most critically adored beatmaking of the next decade.