18 years after their last album, A Tribe Called Quest are back, and with their brand new LP smashing album chart records, we take a look at a track from each of their albums that capture the brilliance and progression of one of the most legendary groups in music.
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990)
Can I Kick It?
An obvious choice, but the iconic call and response of ‘Can I Kick It?’ can’t be ignored. As the track that kick-started their illustrious career, their simple, swear-free lines about rhythm rugs and jitterbugs were worlds away from the Gangsta-Rap N.W.A popularised the year before. But the group were trend setters, not followers, and instead, their mix of samples from disco, jazz and infamously Lou Reed made what is arguably still arguably their biggest hit. Despite this, the group haven’t seen a cent from it, in return for use of the ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ bass line, Reed took 100% of the profits.
The Low End Theory (1991)
In one of the greatest collaborations in hip-hop history, fellow New-York trio Leaders of the New School helped give Tribe’s most iconic albums their most aggressive and exciting anthem. While the track showcases all MCs at their best, ‘Scenario’ is probably most important for properly introducing the world to Busta Rhymes, whose distinctive style and delivery launched his career into the stratosphere. Countless collaborations later, Busta has appeared on all but one of their albums as an honorary member and friend of the group.
Midnight Marauders (1993)
ATCQ were at the height of their fame in 1993, and with the funky ‘Award Tour’ they showed they could even turn a song about touring into their highest charting hit. Like nearly all their material, it’s aged well, sounding vintage yet fresh, with the chords even sounding reminiscent of new track ’The Space Program’.
Beats, Rhymes & Life (1996)
‘Mind Power’ is a perfect example of their undying positivity, voicing opposition to the “glock-toting trash” on other records and instead investing in a foundation for the next generation, financially and mentally. Beats, Rhymes & Life saw the trio slow down more and bring new collaborators and producers in and Consequence’s guest verse fits seamlessly over the Kool and The Gang sampled beat, adding to the already catchy and soothing track.
The Love Movement (1988)
Find a Way
Based around the concept of love, the album boasts some of the most mellow, subtle and smooth R’n’B beats they’ve ever done. Though not as exciting or in your face as their other albums, highlights like ‘Find a Way’ demonstrate their talent in other ways. The Portuguese sung sample working phonetically with the hook serves only to boast their genius, as does the focus on understated but cleverly intricate production.
We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service (2016)
We The People….
18 years since The Love Movement, ‘We The People….’ reintroduced ATCQ to the world when we needed them most. While easily one of their most urgent and politically charged tracks, Q-Tip’s ability to be lace hard-hitting lines about hate speech, and poverty with rhymin’/Ramen noodles puns is exactly why they’re still on top of their game. The subtly lo-fi vocals give the late Phife Dawg’s delivery a distant, haunting quality as he raps about media misrepresentation, inequality and how no-one else can make music that’s both visionary and popular.