Collegian Throwback Thursday: A Tribe Called Quest

A Tribe Called Quest is a hip-hop group from Queens, New York that formed in the late 1980s, composed of the popular producer and MC Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammed, and Phife.  Quest released Beats, Rhymes, and Life during the summer of 1996, a prominent time in hip-hop history.  Issues between east and west coast musician rivals were more than prevalent at the time, and the album dropped very shortly after the most loved rapper Tupac Shakur died which highlighted these issues even more.


This article was written during the prime time for old school hip-hop.  A Tribe Called Quest and other musicians at the time were innovators of the well known east coast “boom bap” style that is making a reappearance in contemporary hip-hop.  Many artists in today’s age are heavily influenced by the Quest and carry on the lyrical and boom bap beats of the 1990s.  An upcoming hip-hop group, Pro Era, use a sample from a Quest beat in the song “Last Cypher” and pay the group homage in “Sorry Bonita”.

It’s evident that A Tribe Called Quest still carries an influential legacy today.  The album Beats was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 1997.  The group released their last album in 1998, but have reunited to perform at certain music festivals and tours around the world.

Jordyn Gunn, Online Editor



A Tribe Called Quest gets four stars for Beats (Sept. 23, 1996, Volume 80, Number 3)

A Tribe Called Quest hits four albums deep with their latest recording, Beats, Rhymes, and Life.  It is the latest collaboration of Q-Tip, Phife, and Ali Shaheed Muhammed since 1993’s Midnight Marauders.

Released at the end of July this year, Beats fits in with the current alternative hip-hop trend made popular by The Fugees.  However, Quest has been together since 1989 making the same innovative jams.  Along with De La Soul, The Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, and Monie Love, the group formed the Native Tongues posse that pioneered what has recently become mainstream hip-hop.

Beats features female vocalists- a popular trend in modern rap.  Tammy Lucas compliments the first single released on the album, “1nce Again,” as Q-Tip makes sure his words “jump up and spread out like vapor.”  Faith Evans, wife of the Notorious B.I.G., vocalizes the track “Stressed Out.”

One other featured artist is a new bud to hip-hop.  Consequence appears to be a Quest protege who flows with his verbal brush on such tracks as “Phony Rappers,” “Motivators,” “Mind Power,” “Word Play,” and “Stressed Out.”

Being living legends of hip-hop, it appears that Quest feels it is time to put the rap industry in check.  Beats approaches several of the pressing issues in the hip-hip music arena.

With lyrical ease, Q-Tip confronts fake m.c.’s in the opening track, “Phony Rappers”:

“Who will be the captain of this ship/If it goes down, don’t you know you’ll have to go with it.”

It tells young rappers to be responsible for their actions and lyrics.  Experience backs Quest in “Keep It Moving,” which lays to waste the east coast/west coast conflict.  This message looms even larger after the death of Tupac Shakur last week.

Then there is the head-bobbing track, “Get a Hold,” which rocks the message, “Cause we gotta get control/Over the illest drum roll.”  It seems to be something Q-Tip has reached asking, “Respect me for that and let me do my thing.”

Perhaps Tip is referring to his recent taking of the shahada (vows to Allah), which marks his completion of the conversion to Islam.  He has now taken the name Kamaal, matching his friend Ali Shaheed Muhammed who was brought up in the Islamic faith.

Other tracks include “Motivators,” which states  their desire to be “ghetto innovators,” and “Separate/Together” gives the black community instructions that they benefit each other more together than separately.  Then there are the usual Quest freestyle jams such as “Word Play,” “The Hop,” and “Jam.”  The last one reminisces over their younger days of wild experiences.

The completeness of Beats, Rhymes, and Life is evident in the lyrics and beats that could only come from such skilled craftsman as A Tribe Called Quest.  They have earned every ounce of respect by laying the beats and twisting the rhymes about life.  The limited production 3-D image cover art makes the album even more pioneering.  You are definitely on point, Quest.

– Chad Mays, Collegian Staff Writer


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