1990. I’m a baby; in my mother’s eyes I always will be. I’m only 4 years old in 1990 but I already had a love for music that was evidently going to stay with me forever. I saw a video on MTV that was bright and had something about it that I instantly realised- this band would be in a line of those I quite simply, couldn’t do without.
I Left My Wallet In El Segundo was the first song I remember hearing by A Tribe Called Quest. They had an approach to Hip Hop that, at the time I didn’t really get. I was too young. Move on 10 years and I get it. I hear sounds and words that made a world of sense to me. Words and sounds that eased the soul and freed the mind. Their relaxed vibe made me feel like an alien to where I was growing up. Where your heart is, that is home. My heart was in Hip Hop and I know it always will be. Hip Hop and Punk. Both entirely different but the same in some respects. Both allowed you to be free. A Tribe Called Quest were a ticket to a different world. It all started with leaving a wallet in El Segundo.
Stressed Out which featured the beautiful Faith Evans will always be one of my favourite A Tribe Called Quest songs. It’s like a comfort blanket and a release in one. Again, they just soothed the soul and take you to a spiritual place.
The way Phife and Q-Tip went back and forth with their lyrics was insane. It felt like they never wrote anything down; that they just brought it out of each other. This laced with Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s production skills just made them stand out from everything else that was going on in Hip Hop. They didn’t project anger; they oozed this brightness to their sound that is found in the likes of De La Soul. They were, as lame as it sounds, fun. Fun is such a shit word, I’m sorry. But they made you feel as if you were part of something worthy of being proud of. They were the first Hip Hop group that made people consciously aware, maybe. Of course there were some before but I feel they brought it to the mainstream for others to see. If I started a Hip Hop group, I’d use all their records as a blueprint to what I would want to create.
Even in their solo projects they still managed to keep that Quest vibe to their music. They went in different directions, but still carried that sense of unity with them wherever they went and with whoever they worked with.
Scenario turned many on to the insane sounds of Busta Rhymes. There’s a live performance of the song where Busta turns his hat inside out and raps as if it was nothing. He quickly became one to watch; he had this way of creeping up on you on Scenario, I think that style stuck with him. Especially early on in his career. He had a wild style that caused many to fall for. Just like how A Tribe Called Quest had that calm vibe about them that lured you in; it stayed with them.
I have no idea what the world thinks of A Tribe Called Quest or what caused people to fall for them. I can only speak for myself. I just know that they’ve always been and always will be a massive part of my life. If not from a musical perspective, but from a spiritual way too. They offered more than music and they offered more than most.
They was Phife and Tip confidently bounced off each other whilst Ali Shaheed Muhammad stayed cool behind them was something that just set them apart and above the others. They sounded like none before and none after sounded like them. They had a unified sound and a family vibe. They created a world where everyone belonged. It didn’t matter where you were from or what you were- they made you feel alright with the skin you were in. There aren’t many bands that do that now. Maybe no one else ever will. It’s alright, because what A Tribe Called Quest gave us was priceless.
Every member was (and still is) distinctive in their own right. When you recite their songs you don’t know if to be Phife or Tip- so you recite both parts. You become A Tribe Called Quest and that is exactly why their music is not only important, it also improves that they will always be there.