Here’s another 2016 release I wanted to get snuck in under the wire, before the year ends…
First, some facts:
Fact: This is their first studio album in 18 years.
Fact: Phife Dawg appears here, though he died several months before the album dropped.
Fact: This record kicks ass.
Facts: Guest artists include (# of track appearances)…
Consequence (4). Busta Rhymes (4). Jack White (4). Elton John (1). André 3000 (1). Marsha Ambrosius and Abbey Smith (1). Talib Kweli (1). Kanye West (1). Anderson Paak (1). Kendrick Lamar (1). Katia Cadet (2). Also, “Lost Somebody” includes a sample from the song Halleluhwah by the German band Can.
OK, so we know all of this, and I already said it kicks ass. But is this just my automatic reaction because it’s been so long since their last record? Am I just saying this because I’m a fan and I’ll give thumbs to whatever they do next?
No, this record actually kicks a whole lot of ass. The grooves are huge. As ever, it’s jazzy and gorgeous. And the verses are stellar. Talk about flow! And sometimes the words come at you so fast…
It’s like no time has passed, in so many ways. Hearing this now, it just sounds like ATCQ, no one else ever could. The production is perfect, capturing that inimitably warm and clear sound…
When I listen to this, it just feels like everything is gonna be OK. Does that sound silly? All the fear and terror, the societal damage, the worry and unrest, the racism and sexism, the media manipulation, the utter absurdity of some things… it’ll all be OK. All we have to do is calm down and go forward together. That’s powerful, that a record can do this.
Brilliance. And I just know that the more I play it, the more I’m going to hear in it, the more I’m going to love it.
PS: For a real perspective, go read Marshall’s excellent piece at Free City Sounds.
PPS: The press agrees with me:
Christopher R. Weingarten of Rolling Stone believed that “in both delivery and content”, A Tribe Called Quest “maintain the attitude of the Bohemian everydude funkonauts that inspired Kanye West, Andre 3000 and Kendrick Lamar (who all appear here)”. Robert Christgau hailed it as a “triumph” in his review for Vice, writing that the record “represents both their bond and the conscious black humanism they felt sure the nation was ready for … urging us to love each other as much as we can as we achieve a happiness it’s our duty to reaccess if we’re to battle as all we can be.”
Kudos to you if you clicked on this one! I know a bunch of you are dyed in the wool rawkers, so the hip hop may not do much for you. But I’ve got a real melting pot going on around here, and rap is just another of the components of my complete breakfast, so for me a post like this ain’t much of a surprise.
I know what I like when I hear it, and I was idling wondering if I could make a Top Ten artists list. Sure I can!
Now, I know that these are tricky waters. Some will say “where is Public Enemy, or Run-DMC, or Grandmaster Flash…” or any of the other classics. Or there’ll be newer artists or whole genres of hip hop I’ve skipped, etc etc. Well, those are surely great too. But this is my list of what I would choose to put on, when the mood moves me. Many were considered. And so it goes.
Alright, here we go:
1 The Roots
2 Wu-Tang Clan
3 Beastie Boys
4 Jurassic 5
5 A Tribe Called Quest
8 Mos Def
10 Notorious B.I.G
11 Honourable mention goes to: Eminem*
12 The artist I most need to get to (but haven’t yet): Talib Kweli**
13 The new artist I most want to try: Kendrick Lamar***
14 The one I should probably include but I just don’t feel it when I hear him: Jay-Z****
* Eminem has a lot to say, and he pulls no punches. But I can’t do his anger all the time, so he doesn’t hit my 10 list because sometimes he just makes me tired.
**And by extension, since I’ve already included Mos Def, I should also get to Black Star.
*** I have no idea if this is a wise decision, his is just a name that keeps coming up.
**** This is probably an unpopular choice, but so what. I don’t dig Jay-Z enough. Go make your own list.
Based on that Top Ten list, you can tell I like it when rappers have something to say, and I like it jazzier and with a sense of fun. I don’t have any time for violence for the sake of violence, which is why 2Pac and Biggie sit at the bottom of the list – only about half of their stuff is brilliant for me. I also have zero time for a lot of the empty, plastic, boastful rap that seems to be popular ad nauseum.
What are your faves? Do you agree with this list? Disagree? Are you ambivalent?
My list is a total sausagefest, so if anybody can recommend any great lady rappers that might fit my likes, drop a comment!
Do you have suggestions for any other acts I need to check out? Let me know!
Here’s the second CD I found at BMV on Bloor during this trip to Toronto. It’s the only Tribe album I didn’t already have (I always heard other peoples’ copies), and I was long overdue to find my own copy.
A Tribe Called Quest – People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm
Let’s go back 25 years. Yes, 1990. This debut record from A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) is now considered a hip hop classic. Look up reviews of it online and very few people can fault it at all. Those who find something off about it are bigger fans of other records by this same band (The Low End Theory comes up often), but even then they usually temper that by saying that this is still a decent to great record.
So what is it about it? Well, if you know ATCQ at all, you know what’s here. Jazzy funky hip hop with absolutely incredible flow rap from Q-Tip and Phife Dawg and cool samples. But more than that, there’s a sweetness to it, none of the jaded need-to-be-angry-to-be-heard stuff we hear a lot these days. This is art for art’s sake, with a level of fun, creativity and story-telling that’s inescapable. It’s a friggin’ masterpiece.
The hits are here, of course. Can I Kick It?, Bonita Applebum, and I Left My Wallet In El Segundo… But the deep cuts are as good (if not better). If I may indulge in a bit of word play with song titles, this album can really Push It Along. It’s all about Youthful Expression and Rhythm (Devoted To The Art Of Moving Butts). This record has a jazzy soulful groove.
I wish I’d bought a copy of this ages ago. Two thumbs way, way, way up.