25 years ago, a pioneering hip-hop group burst onto the scene with “People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythms”. They were one of the first hip-hop groups to bring jazz into the genre and really helped shape the New York alternative sound. Q-Tip, Phife, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and previous member Jarobi are legends within music as a whole, and so it was a delight to hear they were re-issuing their debut album remastered and with 3 new remixes of three classics. Enter A Tribe Called Quest.
So here I am gleefully getting to speak on one of my favourite groups handing over three of my favourite songs to three awesome producers. When you hear “Can I Kick It”, “Footprints” and “Bonita Applebum” are being remixed by J. Cole, Pharrell and featuring CeeLo Green, you should be as excited as me. I mean: A Tribe Called Quest with those guys? That’s got to be a slice of heaven, right?
“Can I Kick It” is really well produced, in fact you might not associate it with Cole’s typical production style. That’s probably what makes it so awesome: a really jazzy, gentle groove with Q-Tip and Phife’s verses still sounding as good as ever. Personally I would have loved to hear Cole throw down a sixteen of his own; I guess I can understand not wanting to take too much of a liberty with such a well-known and legendary track.
“Bonita Applebum” still needs to put me on, and Pharrell really took it to a new place, bringing a nice little synth vibe to the track consistent with more contemporary R’nB and hip-hop. He still maintains the playful sexiness of the original with his signature drum loops and Q-tip’s seductive flows still hitting the mark. It kisses you where some MCs won’t and tells you things some rappers don’t (see what I did there?).
My personal favourite is easily “Footprints”. Most of you will know Gnarls Barkley for the hit “Crazy” but did you know he is actually CeeLo Green too (and a damn good MC at that). I first heard him on a track with Outkast and was hooked. An upbeat, head nod and two step kind of track with an awesome verse by CeeLo – I’ve had it on repeat more than the others.
Obviously the debut was truly great and it’s hard to believe that a quarter of a century has already passed since its release. I think it’s a great reason to look back though, and there aren’t many albums that are more deserving than those released by A Tribe Called Quest. Hopefully it gets people to look back and appreciate what came before and paved the way for now.