With the new year, comes a new series from Label Music. REWIND will revisit a whole host of old school icons of the music industry, and first up; volunteer Gugundeep Kaur takes you on a journey way back, re-introducing A Tribe Called Quest.
With the rise of mumble rappers and mindless trap, I think it’s time we looked back to the classic hip-hop artists from way back when. Listening to old-school hip-hop has recently become somewhat of a millennial trend, but I think both stylistically and lyrically there is much to learn from the older artists; since we wouldn’t have the hip-hop of today without artists such as Q-Tip, Nas and MF Doom. So without further ado, let us introduce you to: A Tribe Called Quest.
Born out of the streets of Queens, NY, the group was made up of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White. Veering away from the heavy gangsta rap and meaningless dance music, Tribe carved out their own genre of rap which was heavily influenced by jazz. Tribe shifted the classic rap narrative and changed people’s perspectives on what comprised the musical genre and what could be done with rap.
Rap has always been a melting pot of musical genres: blues, jazz, reggae, soul, R&B. But the way it was embedded into their tracks so masterfully is what sets Tribe apart from other groups. For me, what makes them so unique is how the group mesh with each other so well. The almost conversational back-and-forth between Phife and Tip, along with their highly distinct voices, make for very memorable music.
Tribe were the true pioneers in alternative hip-hop. Their musical style was special, yet it was the skill with which they sonically constructed their tracks, together with their clever lyrics that earnt respect from other major rap players. In their song ‘Check the Rhyme,’ Phife says “just clean out your ears and just check the word.” And this is exactly what they made people do: rethink their approach to rap by giving them something completely new.
Just like the response from audiences when the Wu-Tang Clan entered the scene, you could love or hate their music but you could not compare it directly to anything because it was so different. Tribe seriously shifted the sonic landscape of rap, influencing many later artists such as Pharrell, Kanye, Digable Planets and Andre 3000. Their legacy lives on through their influence in so many modern rap tracks, be it through the soulfulness in modern rap, or the effort to make rap more socially conscious through philosophical, yet playful, lyricism.
Featured image by: Omeiza Haruna