About damn time I got to some Tribe, right?
A Tribe Called Quest. You know ’em. The Queens crew of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (along with Jarobi White, who left to become a chef early in the group’s career but I’ll still throw in here just for the sake of completeness) changed the game with their arrival in the ’90s. Members of the ever-enlightened Native Tongues posse (initiated by the fellow legends the Jungle Brothers and also repped by the De La), the Tribe came to be the defining members of the collective, and the champions of alternative rap. The group brought a new level of intelligence and deep ruminations to hip-hop, as the lyrics of Q-Tip and Phife explored and helped to define the Black experience for the 1990s, speaking about love, race, identity, crime, education, and more. They affirmed positivity, and celebrated Blackness and hip-hop culture. The production broke barriers too, as the Tribe’s production was heavily influenced by all corners of Black music, making their sound more jazzy and soulful than most other acts of the day. Special attention paid to the low end too, making the bass was as rhythmic, as constant, and as alive as a beating heart. Tribe was a group that really changed my thoughts on rap, and helped get me into the music heavily when I first started listening.
Partly the reason why it took me so long to write about the Tribe in the first place was the fact that it was so damn hard to pick just one song to start with. The group has released five albums, and they’re all really good. Even their “worst” albums still knock harder than many groups’ best. For me, no one record stands above the others. From their fuzzy, whimsical 1990 debut, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (try saying that five times fast), I was torn between “Footprints,” “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” (I got to get it, I got-got to get it), and the iconic tracks, “Bonita Applebum” and “Can I Kick It?” On ’91’s less fuzzy, darker follow up, The Low End Theory, there was “Excursions” (which has some great samples of The Last Poets), the fantastic tag-teaming effort of “Buggin’ Out,” and the classic posse cut in “Scenario.” 1993’s Midnight Marauders was my first Tribe album, and most of it occupies a special place in my heart. On their underrated 1996 effort Beats, Rhymes, and Life, “1nce Again” was calling to me…
Mannnn! Okay, tonight’s post is “Buggin’ Out,” from The Low End Theory. While I wasn’t a huge fan of this record at first because of its somewhat darker soundscapes and the wearier moods of Tip and Phife ruminating on the ups and downs of success, the record grew on me. Still not my all time fave Tribe joint, but it has some excellent moments…the tag-teaming rhymes of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg on this track right here being one of them. So damn quotable, especially Phife’s line about riding the train with no cash (I remember those days…hell, I’m still in them), and that simple bass melody is so damn effective.
So hit play on this one and be blessed by the best of hip-hop.