As the 1990’s begin to dawn, hip-hop was going through a few changes. One of those changes was the rise of alternative hip-hop, and perhaps one if not most acclaimed and successful was A Tribe Called Quest.
As a part of the Native Tongues, a hip-hop collective known for positive-minded Afrocentric lyrics, as well as the pioneering use of eclectic samplings and jazz-influenced beats, A Tribe Called Quest would shine a bigger light on albums made between 1990 and 1998. And it would begin with 1990’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Despite having little commercial appeal, it did received praised for lyrical inventiveness, and was seen as setting the stage for the decade to come. Key tracks from the album included “Bonita Applebum”, “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”, and “Can I Kick It”.
In 1991, A Tribe Called Quest released the landmark The Low End Theory. With classics including “Check the Rhyme” and “Scenario”, the album was cited as an instant classic by Source Magazine (who for the second consecutive time, bestowed the group with the perfect five mics rating), and would even go on to be regarded by Rolling Stone as one of the top 200 greatest albums of all time. The album also brought more awareness to jazz rap.
After the Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest hit the Billboard 200’s top ten, and top the R&B albums charts with 1993’s Midnight Marauders, which featured the hit “Award Tour”. Three years later, their fourth album Beats, Rhymes and Life became the group’s first and only number one album on the Billboard 200, followed by the Love Movement in 1998. A Tribe Called Quest disbanded soon after after five albums, three of which went platinum and two went gold.
Though there would be solo careers (including one by member Q-Tip) and reunions, A Tribe Called Quest’s legacy is firmly established, as one of the best hip-hop groups of all time, one that would influence countless artists in soul and hip-hop including Maxwell, Outkast and Kanye West.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: A Tribe Called Quest, eligible in 2015.