It’s hard to believe that I would ever write anything, let alone associate myself, with rap and hip-hop. Let me explain. I grew up in a 21st Century SoCal suburb, so I’ve always found it difficult to identify with topics typically presented in rap music.
Sure, there were occasional rap songs that I would listen to, but these fizzled out in under a week, and I would be back to my regular music habits.
I’ve never hated rap; I wanted to keep an open mind about the genre, because good music should transcend categories. It was just tough when every rap song on the radio had to do with: a) Being more masculine than everyone else. b) Being more wealthy than everyone else c) Having more hoes than everyone else.
To put it simply, because of the sad state of commercialized rap, I just assumed that all rap music was shallow and not worth listening to.
A Tribe Called Quest changed all of that. A 180-degree flip-flop of my views on the art of hip-hop.
As I was nearing the end of my first year in college, I decided to listen to some artists introduced in my American Popular Music class. A Tribe Called Quest was a name I’ve heard since elementary school, so I was curious and decided to listen to a few of their tunes on YouTube.
Immediately hooked. That’s the easiest way to put it. Unlike other rap songs that I would ignore after about a week’s worth of listening, I’m still listening to ATCQ today, with no intention of stopping.
I’m raving about this rap group, but I haven’t even had a chance to introduce them. A Tribe Called Quest is composed of three (originally four) members. You have your two MC’s, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, and the DJ, Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
Their prime time was the early 90’s, when gangsta rap and the like ruled the charts. A Tribe Called Quest was different. Their mellow beats, jazz music sampling, and witty, positive lyrics made them pioneers of a new style of socially-conscious hip-hop.
Instead of rapping about violence, sex, and money, Q-Tip and Phife covered topics such as safe-sex, vegetarianism, consumerism, and the use of the n-word in the black community. Definitely not your typical rap song content.
To make things better, their songs were great. Nimble wordplay, humor, and chemistry, these two MC’s had them all. The beats are infectiously catchy, and you’ll be sure to catch yourself bobbing along with their songs.
A Tribe Called Quest was part of the Native Tongues Movement, which stressed positive music and pride in one’s race. Along with their tendency to sample rare jazz tracks, they influenced a whole new generation of socially-conscious hip hop artists.
I would personally recommend A Tribe Called Quest’s second and third albums, The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders. This is hip-hop, and this is what music is all about.
Check out the first song from Midnight Marauders, called Steve Biko (Stir It Up). Then check out their other stuff. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.