Throwback: A Tribe Called Quest
Early Life: The Tribe story began in the late 80's in one of the roots of rap - New York City. Born in 1970, Jonathan Davis, better known as Q-Tip, bounced from Harlem to Queens. It was in the latter that he would go on to meet co-founders Phife Dawg, Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White. The group met while attending Murry Bergtraum High School, with each having shown interest in music early on in their lives. Q-Tip had already been performing as a solo act for some time, while using the name MC Love Child. It was during this time period he had begun collaborating with DJ/Rapper Muhammad. The duo often collaborated with MC Phife Dawg, who was maintaining a solo career as Crush Connection. While he stayed busy with that, the original two recruited rapper Jarobi White to help on the mic. Around this time, Q-Tip officially joined the group, officially branding themselves as A Tribe Called Quest in 1988. The first year the group recorded mainly underground material, amassing a small following of demos. It wasn't until the following year that they signed a demo deal with Geffen Records. Immediately the produced three demo's for the company, who then decided the group's sound didn't have enough appeal. Tribe was then sent off to look for more work. With the demo's produced from the previous deal, they were able to lure numerous offers from record companies that all jumped at the possibility of signing the group to multi-album deals. Eventually, the group would decide on signing with Jive Records,
Rise to Prominence: Within a year of signing with Jive, Tribe dropped their first album, People's Instinctive Travels and The Paths of Rhythm.. Critically, it recieved much praise as a solid debut record, however it lacked any commercial appeal. Where it lacked in mainstream popularity, it made up for in its acquisition of a committed following. Their popularity stemmed from their lyrical prowess as well as their complimenting satirical approach to some of the tracks. The group subsequently led a sold out tour and by the time they released their sophomore effort The Low End Theory, they were well on their way to becoming stars. The group's sound, highlighted by it's roots in jazz and vocal interplay between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, became very prominent, shaping the genre throughout the rest of the 90's.
The Low End Theory: While only reaching #45 on Billboards 200, the album marks the bands most successfully work, both critically and commercially. The album reached a platinum certification in 1995 behind lead singles Check the Rhime, Jazz (We've Got), and Scenario. Often the album finds itself ranked highly on 'all-time rap album' lists.
Midnight Marauders: Midnight Marauders, released in 1993, was the group's 3rd record. This one did much better commercially, as it fed off the success of their last album and reached #8 on the same Billboard chart. It is a prime example of the Jazz Rap genre, which Tribe helped make mainstream in the 1990's. The records success was helped by lead single Award Tour, the groups highest charting single ever.
People's Instinctive Travels and The Paths of Rhythm: While it was the groups first album, it showed a willingness to experiment within the genre as well as dare even further with its lyrical subject matter. It also marked the beginning of one of the most successful rap ventures of all time.
Most Popular Singles
Left My Wallet In Segundo
Awards & Honors: A Tribe Called Quest has been nominated three times at the Grammy awards, twice for Rap Album of the Year. The group has also been honored with numerous Achievement Awards from the Grammy's, VH1, and Billboard. Consistently, the group is placed highly on 'All time rap lists' by numerous publications such as Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Complex.
Their album People's Instinctive Travels and The Paths of Rhythm was the the first album on Pitchfork to ever recieve a 'perfect' review.
Current Status: Amidst frustrations with their label deal, the group released their last album in 1998, ending their run shortly thereafter. Q-Tip and Phife Dawg maintained successful solo careers in the years after, only this time under different management groups. After a brief reunion in 2004, the group officially reunited in 2006 for a sold out North American tour. The following years never yielded any new albums from the group, but instead headlining spots at numerous festivals throughout the country. On March 22nd, 2016, co-founder Phife Dawg succumbed to a long struggle to diabetes, effectively ending the group historic run, A Tribe Called Quest as we know it.
Impact: A Tribe Called Quest helped reintroduce the genre of Jazz into the Hip/Hop community. They also ushered in an era of MC's who were unapologetic on the mic as well as their subject matter. They were different altogether from a lot of east coast acts, both in their music and even what they wore. They have helped influence some of the genre biggest mainstays such as Kanye West, Pharell, and even Andre 3000, all of whom have gone on record to credit them as influences. With the death of Phife Dawg, the groups run effectively came to an end, but they were able to accomplish in their short time will go on forever.