A Tribe Called Quest burst onto the hip-hop scene in 1990 with the release of their debut album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.” The Tribe brought with them a fresh style of rhyming as they pushed socially conscious and positive messages, largely abstaining from any profanity or negativity in their lyrics. The group consisted of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (Jerobi was also a part of the group for their debut album) and as a whole the Tribe were part of the “Native Tongues” along with other luminaries such as De La Soul, The Jungle Brothers and Black Sheep.
The Tribe’s second album, “The Low End Theory,” built on their popularity and earned industry-wide praise while further cementing their place among the industry’s elite. Their third release, “Midnight Marauders,” was also a tremendous success and featured some of their most popular songs. Their final two albums lacked the innovation, both lyrically and from a production standpoint, of their first three efforts and the group disbanded to pursue other projects following “The Love Movement.”
Nonetheless, A Tribe Called Quest remains one of hip-hop’s most influential and respected groups of all-time and their first three albums are must owns for any aspiring hip-hop connoisseur. So without further adieu, here are the top 10 songs performed by A Tribe Called Quest.
1) Electric Relaxation – This is the Tribe at their smoothed out lyrical best, dropping their game for the ladies over one of the most soothing beats in hip-hop history. The song is also known for having perhaps the most difficult to understand chorus ever as it says “relax yourself girl,” followed by three unintelligible words. And just so you’re not left wondering, the final three words of the hook actually say, “please set-tle down.”
2) Check The Rhime – Arguably the best track off of unquestionably one of the best hip-hop albums ever (Low End Theory), Q-Tip and Phife could teach a course in how to pull off a seamless duet on a hip-hop track with this gem. One flows into the other perfectly, there’s a catchy hook and the lyrics are off the page. A five-star classic.
3) Award Tour – The Tribe’s biggest single commercial success also happens to be one of the best songs they ever did (which is often not the case) as Award Tour features Q-Tip dropping one of his best verses to open the cut. His buttery smooth lyrics pour out here and when you’re done listening you’ll immediately understand why he is regarded as one of the very best lyricists of all-time.
4) Scenario (Remix) – Although not nearly as well known as the original release, the remix of “Scenario” is actually a much harder hitting and more refined cut. The remix features Kid Hood, who makes his one and only appearance as he was tragically killed after recording his verse and before the remix was released. Not the easiest song to find, but well worth seeking out. It is that good.
5) Keep It Rollin’ – With the inclusion of this song it makes it three of the top five off of the “Midnight Marauders” album and this track is a bit of a sleeper as it is by no means one of the Tribe’s signature efforts. However, the laid back beat and steady flow of Phife, Tip and a tremendous guest appearance by Large Professor make this one of the more enjoyable tracks to roll to from start to finish.
6) Can I Kick It? – My personal favorite track off their debut album, Phife and Tip rhyme over a jazzed up version of “Walk on the Wild Side” to great effect as their laid back lyrics fit perfectly on this one.
7) Jazz (We’ve Got) – Another classic off of “The Low End Theory,” this is pure lyrical euphoria as there is minimal chorus and build up so what is left is four minutes of almost non-stop rhyming.
8) Bonita Applebum – The single that really started it all for the Tribe, Bonita is one of the many songs to utilize the Eisley Brothers’ classic, “Between the Sheets.” It’s a very different delivery from the Tribe here as they favor a very slow, deliberate style.
9) Scenario – I balked at including the same song twice, but in reality the remix is a near totally different song so I am including the original version of “Scenario” here. The rhyming here is more aggressive than usual, but still not profane. It also is well known for being the birthplace of Busta Rhymes’ line, “Row! Row! Like a dungeon dragon!”
10) Clap Your Hands – With apologies to “Oh My God,” “If The Papes Come” and “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” I had to go with this song to finish off the top 10 simply because it contains of the most clever lines in the annals of hip-hop when Q-Tip croons, “You know I`m gonna do it. My s**t is rock solid, but it flows like fluid. Chemists get confused of my ill composition…”
So there you have it, 10 amazing tracks to satisfy any true lover of hip-hop. Here’s hoping their recent reunion spawns a sixth album because hip-hop could sure use it.