A Tribe Called Quest

  • Hip-hop group formed in 1985 from Queens New York. The members of the group were Q-Tip (Kamaal Fareed, born Jonathan David – vocals, production), Phife Dawg (born Malik Taylor – vocals), Ali Shaheed Muhammad (turntables) and Jarobi White (vocals).
  • Fareed and Taylor were childhood friends, growing up in the same neighborhood. He met Muhammad in high school. Fareed started rapping when he was nine years old, and at twelve he was DJing and making rap tapes. By high school, he participated in rap battles, using the names J Nice or MC Love Child. In 1985, Fareed and Muhammad started making demo tapes. Later that year, Taylor joined along with another neighborhood friend, White. As a foursome, they called themselves Quest.
  • Hip-hop friend Afrika Baby Bam from a group named Jungle Brothers gave Fareed the nickname Q-Tip, and it became his stage name. The same friend suggested that Q-Tip rename his group A Tribe Called Quest. In 1988, Q-Tip was featured on a song by Jungle Brothers. Later that year, five hip-hop acts – A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Queen Latifah and Monie Love – formed a collective called Native Tongues. They produced music that was Afrocentric with positive messages and eclectic sampling influenced by jazz music.
  • In 1989, A Tribe Called Quest was signed to a demo deal, and a five-song demo was produced. The label decided against maintaining a relationship, and several other labels showed interest in the group. They were signed to an independent label, and their debut album was released in 1990 – People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. It was well received, particularly because its light-hearted lyrics were unlike most rap and hip-hop music of the day. Four singles from the album charted in the top ten of the Hot Rap Songs chart – I Left My Wallet In El Segundo, Bonita Applebum and Can I Kick It? – no songs about cop killing, drugs, prostitution or the ghetto here.
  • The Low End Theory album was released in 1991. During the recording of the album, White left the group to become a chef, so the group became a trio. The album was a breakthrough, fusing hip-hop with laid back jazz – many critics considered it one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. Rolling Stone ranked it at #43 on their Greatest Albums of All Time list. It was certified platinum, and the single Check the Rhyme topped the Hot Rap Songs chart, while Scenario reached #6 on the chart and #57 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • 1993’s Midnight Marauders album was their first to reach #1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart. It was certified platinum, and the single Award Tour peaked at #7 and #47 on the Hot Rap Songs chart and Hot 100 chart respectively. The album was ranked #202 on Rolling Stones’ GOAT albums list.
  • Two more albums were released before the group broke up due to frustrations with their record label. Beats, Rhymes and Life was released in 1996, topping both the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart and the Billboard 200 album chart. The single Stressed Out peaked at #15 on the Hot Rap Songs chart. The Love Movement was released in 1998 – the single Find a Way peaked at #29 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.
  • From 1999 to 2005, members of the group focused on solo projects. In 2006, they reunited as a touring group, with White rejoining the group. They toured partly because of mounting medical bills for Phife Dawg, who was battling diabetes. In 2008, Phife Dawg received a kidney transplant from his wife, and in 2012 he received a second kidney transplant. The group reduced their appearances and in 2013 announced that they would again split up.
  • In late 2015, the group reunited to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The performance energized the group, and they decided to secretly record a new album. Muhammad was unable to participate due to other commitments. While recording the album, Pfife Dawg died due to complications from diabetes. The group completed the album, and in November 2016 they released We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. One single from the album – We The People…. – reached #23 on the Hot Rap Songs chart. The group performed on Saturday Night Live the day after the album was released, in front of a mural of Pfife Dawg. A final tour by the group ended in September 2017.
  • Like your hip-hop with a little more positivity? Then A Tribe Called Quest is for you. Here’s the video for Check the Rhyme. No F-Bombs or N-Bombs here.

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