A Tribe Called Quest
Who they are
“Back in 95’ she fell in love with the Tribe. Boo, back in 92’ I was just like you”,
this is Kanye West referring to A Tribe Called Quest in his 2009 song “Doing Girls
Wrong”. This quote illustrates the enormous influence A Tribe Called Quest has had
from musicians to people who simply enjoy music. The group formed in 1988 out of
Queens, New York with three members, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and DJ/producer Ali
Shaheed Muhammad. The creativity and prolific MC and production abilities these three
artists encapsulated are uncanny and will influence music for a long time to come. The
group grew up together and attended the same high school.
In their era, when you heard the term “rap”, it was hardcore gangsters talking
about “bitches”, money, cars and jewelry. Most rapers in what they call the “rap game”
were actually drug dealers, hustlers or some kind of criminal take Notorious B.I.G. for
example. His struggle with dealing drugs was recently displayed in the film Notorious.
And there are countless other rappers with rap sheets.
When A Tribe Called Quest came into the scene they brought a style that would
forever change the “rap game”. Quoted from the itunes biography of A Tribe Called
Quest it says, “Without question the most intelligent, artistic rap group during the 1990’s,
[they] started and perfected the hip-hop alternative to hardcore gangsta rap. In essence,
they abandoned the macho posturing rap music had been constructed upon, and focused
instead on abstract philosophy and message tracks.” So you could say they
revolutionized the art of
rap music, almost
forming another genre
referred to as hip-hop,
although they are
largely considered the
same genre. Hip-hop
has a large jazz or funk
or even 70’s rock
influence in it. If you
asked a hip-hop fan what the difference between rap and hi-hop is, you may get an
answer such as this, “Hip-hop is creative while rap is predictable”. Amen. The main
thing to know is there is a distinction between the two kinds of music.
The first album was released in 1989 titled, Instinctive Travels and the Paths of
Rhythm. With the production of the album the group mixed many messages in their
lyrics. They had songs that touched on serious topics, such as venereal disease, and made
it sound cool. The track “Can I kick It?” was recently used in a Gatorade commercial, to
further illustrate the influence this music has had in our lives, even if we aren’t aware of
it. The sophomore effort, debuting in 1991 and titled The Low End Theory, would by far
exceed all expectations and is “held up as perhaps the best hip-hop LP of all time.”(Itunes
biography) The next album released in 1993 and titled Midnight Marauders, although
not as critically acclaimed, showed that they had a tight bond with the rap community.
The album booklet insert showed faces of more than 50 rappers, ranging from De La
Soul, a fellow member of the Native Tongues Posse, a collective of like-minded hip hop
artists, to the likes of The Beastie Boys. Midnight Marauders is the highest selling album
they’ve produced. The following two albums wouldn’t break any records, yet remain as
fine albums for one’s music collection, the albums titled, Beats, Rhymes and Life, 1996,
and then followed by The Love Movement, released in 1998. Later in 1998 A Tribe
Called Quest announced their ultimate breakup.
Way ahead of their time
It’s been twenty years since their debut album was released and it’s still better
than any rap or hip-hop music. This music is considered a classic of its genre and has
proved to be timeless. The way Ali Shaheed Muhammad produced the music, with fresh
jazz hooks and funky beats, accompanied with the smooth lyrics of Q-tip and Phife
Dawg, The Tribe Called Quest makes for the easiest listening experience you can find.
Electronic relaxation appropriately titles one of the classic tracks. If you don’t like the
rap music you hear on the radio, you’re not alone, I feel the same way. But don’t judge
the genre by what you hear there, there are gems out there, and A Tribe Called Quest is
one of them and maybe the shiniest. So sit back, relax and listen to the greatest hip-hop
artists of all time. You won’t regret it.
Itunes music store “A Tribe Called Quest”