Originally Posted by SeriousPancakes
Now I have no idea what exactly they did but it sounds like the vocals were just not compressed a lot. It just sounds like a natural vocal recording without it having an in-your face 1176 type compressor. Also where it sits in the mix, it seems like a few instruments are actually louder than the vocals except for in the chorus.
It's funny you mention that, because 1176 is exactly what comes to mind when I hear those vocals.
Anyway, can't speak specifically about the Tribe records, but I can say I did a good bit of work with Bob back in that era, as well as worked with cats who were making records he mixed, and it wasn't at all uncommon to cut vocals with dynamic mics. So, take the dynamic mic signal of an emcee spitting hard with little regard for musical dynamic (iow, the focus was on ENERGY ENERGY ENERGY), compress it a good bit with something kinda fast and snappy to tame the unruly performances (of course, Tip and Phife don't really fall into that description, but a lotta cats back then did...hell, check out Scenario), and print that bitch to tape. That's three, maybe four layers of distortion right there. Can't crank up the 16k, cuz there isn't any, so you find yourself (or rather maybe, Bob finds himself) pushing the mids and upper mids.