Ok, here we are – Part 4 of our journey with the Native Tongue family. A Tribe Called Quest is probably the most well-known and is the best-selling member of the Native Tongue collective. They helped create a lyrical, tonal and musical dynamic that allowed Rap to maintain its b-boy aesthetic without bowing down to gangsterism. The Tribe, along with their Native Togue crew, gave hope to us who loved Hip Hop culture, but did not want to have to buy into some of the trap doors along the path of gangsta bravado and beefs. We could “Keep it Real” and not have to kill.
With their first album, the 1990 “Instinctive Travel and the Paths of Rhythm,” A Tribe hit us with clever word-play and jazzy beats to create a relaxed vibe that was smooth yet hard hitting. My favorites are “Bonita Applebaum” and “Can I Kick It.” We knew they represented something different, yet progressive – with the fusion of hip-hop, jazz and sophisticated production and engineering. In 1991, we got “Low End Theory” and yes I got, jointz for days, with “Scenario,” “Butter”, “Check the Rhime, “ Vibes and Stuff,” and “Buggin Out.” Q-Tip was the highlight of the first album, but Phife Dawg did the thing on “Low End Theory”, with lines like, “I’m just a short brother, dark skin face, weigh a buck-fifty, 36 waist hair is crazy curly, flip like Mr. Furley, To this day I still believe that no MC can serve me,” from “Vibes and Stuff,” Phife proved he should not be underestimated. Two years later, “Midnight Maruaders,” “looted our ears” and we were treated with one of the best Rap albums of all time. “Award Tour” was super dope, and got the most play, but let’s be clear tracks 8-13 on this album (“Electric Relaxation,” “Clap Your Hands,” “Oh My God,” “Keep it Rollin,” “The Chase, Pt.2,” and “Lyrics to Go”), in my mind, are the dopest series of tracks ever to follow back to back on a Rap album. Only “Paid in Full” and “The Score” can rival this series of back to back bangas. “Beats, Rhymes and Life,” “The Love Movement” and “We Got It from Here … Thank You 4 Your Service” round out the 6 albums from The Tribe. They are all full with tracks that are truly memorable.
The Tribe is one of the most influential groups in hip-hip history and their sound, approach and success set the stage for the styles of many rappers to come (i.e., The Fugees, Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, The Pharcyde, Busta Rhymes) and even other genres (i.e., Neo Soul). Themes like date rape, the East Coast v. West Coast rap beef, STD’s, sheisty industry types and more were tackled successfully by Q-Tip (Kamaal Ibn John Fareed), Phife Dawg (Malik Izaak Taylor), Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi (Jarobi White) (first and las album). We unfortunately lost Phife Dawg in 2016 to his diabetes, but we got his last contributions in “We Got It from Here … Thank You 4 Your Service” and his posthumous solo album “Forever” is due out later this year. The Tribe is a truly groundbreaking group and part of my Top Five of all time. Here are my Top 5 Tracks from The Tribe.
Check out my Top 5 from A Tribe Called Quest:
- “Electric Relaxation”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHRnvjCkTsw
- “Check the Rhime” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QWEPdgS3As
- “Scenario”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6TLWqn82J4
- “Can I Kick It”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3pyCGnZzYA
- “Keep It Rollin”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArsY7a8Z1GQ
#Classic Hip Hop