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Music / A Tribe Called Quest

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Like A Pimp Named Slickback, you have to say the whole thing.

A Tribe Called Quest is a Alternative Hip Hop group, formed in 1985. It is composed of rapper/producer Q-Tip (Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, formerly Jonathan Davis), rapper Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor), and DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad. A fourth member, rapper Jarobi White, left the group after their first album but rejoined the group since 2006. The group is regarded as iconic pioneers of alternative hip hop music, having helped to pave the way for innovative hip-hop artists. Allmusic calls them "the most intelligent, artistic rap group during the 1990s".

Along with De La Soul, Queen Latifah and the Jungle Brothers, the group was a central part of the Native Tongues Posse, and enjoyed the most commercial success out of all the groups to emerge from that collective. Their innovative fusing of hip hop and jazz has had a lasting impact on hip hop music, helping to expand the art of hip hop production. Many of their songs, such as "Bonita Applebum", "Can I Kick It?", "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo", "Scenario", "Check the Rhime", "Jazz (We've Got)", "Award Tour", and "Electric Relaxation" are regarded as classics.

They released five albums in eight years (the first in 1990; the last in 1998), and although the first three LPs were highly acclaimed, the group disbanded in 1998, attributing their split to record label politics and the changing scene of the hip hop world with the popularity of groups shifting to solo rappers. In 2006, the group reunited, and five years later, a documentary about the group, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, was also made, and it was directed by Michael Rapaport. The group played several shows on Kanye West's Yeezus Tour in 2013 and then stepped out of the spotlight before reuniting again on November 13, 2015 on The Tonight Show in wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. Feeling "charged", they subsequently decided to put aside their differences and secretly record a new album.

Tragedy struck on March 22, 2016 when Phife Dawg died due to complications resulting from his diabetes. Nevertheless, in August 2016, L.A Reid, CEO of Epic Records, announced that a new ATCQ album was coming out, and eventually it was given a set release date. This album (reportedly their final album, according to Q-Tip), We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, came out on November 11, 2016. The 16-track double album features not only Phife verses recorded before his death and Jarobi White rhyming for the first time, but many rappers and artists from the past and present such as Kendrick Lamar, André 3000, Kanye West, Elton John, Anderson .Paak, Jack White, Consequence and more. The remaining members of the group played on Saturday Night Live the day after the album released. The album itself is a tribute and dedicated to Phife Dawg.


Notable Songs

  • "Bonita Applebum" from People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
  • "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" from People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
  • "Can I Kick It" from People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
  • "Check the Rhime" from The Low End Theory
  • "Jazz (We've Got)" from The Low End Theory
  • "Scenario" from The Low End Theory
  • "Hot Sex" from Midnight Marauders
  • "Award Tour" from Midnight Marauders
  • "Electric Relaxation" from Midnight Marauders
  • "Oh My God" from Midnight Marauders
  • "1nce Again" from Beats, Rhymes and Life
  • "Stresed Out" from Beats, Rhymes and Life
  • "Find a Way" from The Love Movement
  • "The Space Program" from We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
  • "We the People" from We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service

A Tribe Called Quest provides examples of:

  • Alternative Hip Hop: They are one of the better known hip hop artists in this genre.
  • The Artifact: Q-Tip's stage name has been this since The Low End Theory. By the time the album was in production, both an increasing personal dislike of the name and trademark issues made him change his stage name to "The Abstract". However, he ultimately kept the "Q-Tip" moniker, if only because that's what everyone knew him as by that point.
  • Big Applesauce: Their songs frequently reference New York.
  • Book Ends: Their entire recording career may be a worthy example. At the beginning of People's Instinctive Travels... a (newborn?) baby is heard crying, and at the very end of We Got It from Here... the name of a deceased person (Phife Dawg!) is being chanted.
  • Control Freak: In Beats, Rhymes and Life (The Movie) Phife, Ali and their old manager say that Q-Tip is/was this.
  • Darker and Edgier: Beats, Rhymes and Life (The Album) has a darker sound and lyrical tone than the previous three releases.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The actual cause of Q-Tip leaving his wallet in El Segundo.
    Ali said "pay for lunch", So I did it
    Pulled out the wallet and I saw this wicked beautiful lady
    She was a waitress there
    Put the wallet down and stared and stared
    To put me back into reality, here's Shaheed,
    "Yo, Tip, man, you got what you need!"
    I checked for keys and started to step
    But what do you know, my wallet I forget
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Not related to the band was Q-Tip’s contribution to “Groove is in the Heart”. Downplayed as, while different from the usual sound, became a massive radio hit.
  • The Golden Age of Hip Hop: They are one of the most acclaimed hiphop artists.
  • Grand Finale: We Got It from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service effectively serves as one for the band's career.
  • Jazz Rap: Pioneers of the genre; though preceded by Gang Starr, and the Jungle Brothers. Even as their sound got slicker from Beats, Rhymes & Life onward, the jazz influence never left.
  • Jerkass: Judging from Beats, Rhymes and Life (The Movie) Q-Tip shifted from Innocently Insensitive to this.
  • Insufferable Genius: One definitely gets that vibe from Q-Tip after watching the movie.
  • Location Song: "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo", about how the band lost their wallet in this place and need to retrieve it.
  • Long Title: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Also Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest and We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
  • Lyric Swap: In "Check the Rhime" the first two lines of each verse are the same (albeit with Q-tip rapping the first and Phife the second) but afterwords the lyrics are different.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo", the best song ever written about a lost wallet.
  • Music Is Politics: On the track "Check the Rhime", Q-Tip raps the line “Industry rule #4080/Record company people are shady”, which was supposedly a reference to their label Jive Records.
  • N-Word Privileges: "Sucka Nigga" touches upon this in the second verse.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Thanks to a throwaway Take That! line in "Jazz (We've Got)note  that led to him getting jumped by rap/New Jack Swing group Wreckx-N-Effect, Q-Tip was forced to wear a gimp mask to cover up an eye injury in the music video for "Hot Sex".
  • Record Producer: Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed almost exclusively produced everything the Tribe put out. The exceptions are their three-year period between 1996-1999 with their production crew "The Ummah",note  and We Got from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service featured various guest producers and composers, including Elton John and Kanye West.note 
  • Rockumentary: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.
  • Shout-Out: In "Oh My God" from Midnight Marauders, Phife Dawg shouts out Al B. Sure!, TLC, and En Vogue.
  • Supergroup: ATCQ as a whole is one of the original three charter members of Native Tongues, alongside De La Soul, and the Jungle Brothers. Tip himself was also a part of the late 90s Soulquarians collective, which included D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Questlove, James Poyser, Talib Kweli, and fellow Native Tongues Mos Def and J Dilla.
  • Take That!: Subverted. "Check the Rhime" seemingly has a dig at MC Hammer, at the end for being a pop sellout with the final lyrics being "Rap is not Pop, if you call it that then STOP". However, Q-Tip was actually defending Hammer's place in hip hop with that couplet, and checking everyone else who was calling Hammer a pop artist. Unfortunately, Hammer took it the wrong way, and dissed the Tribe on "Break 'Em Off Something Propa."