A Tribe Called Quest: Essentials

A Tribe Called Quest will release its final album, We Got it From Here, Thank You For Your Service, on Friday, Nov. 11. The legendary hip-hop group's first album in 18 years has generated a huge amount of excitement among its devoted fans for a number of reasons.

A Tribe Called Quest, comprised of  Q-Tip, Phife,  Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi, is one of the most revered hip-hop groups of all time. The band members' success lay in their everyman appeal that made you think you could be exactly like them. But behind their ordinary appearance was the ability to make extraordinary music, infused with obscure jazz and soul records imaginatively rearranged with uplifting lyrics. Their first three albums, 
People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders, are easily in the ranks of the best hip-hop ever recorded.

Incredibly influential, the albums helped to sonically define hip-hop in the 1990s. Pharrell Williams and Kanye West have cited the group as a key influence and The Low End Theory has often been referred to as "the Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop," with Dr. Dre admitting the record was a key sonic influence on his 1992 album The Chronic. Consequently, the news of any new music from the seminal group that broke up shortly after the release of its fifth album, 1998's The Love Movement, was going to resonate.

The group's lyricists Q-Tip and Phife pursued separate solo careers while DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad embarked on a number of musical projects (including being the musical director for Marvel's Netflix
Luke Cage series). The group would reform for occasional spot dates but no new music was forthcoming and anyone who saw the Michael Rappaport-directed Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest documentary would know that tension among group members was especially high.

In 2016, the release of the group's final album is even more significant, as lyricist Phife — who formed one of hip-hop's most formidable lyrical tag teams with Q-Tip — died earlier this year. However, unbeknownst to everyone except those in their inner circle, the group had reformed to record
We Got It From Here prior to Phife's death, after appearing on The Tonight Show to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its debut album.

In light of A Tribe Called Quest's final album being released, staffers at CBC Music got together to pick their favourite A Tribe Called Quest songs, explaining what the records meant to them and why they were so important.

Here's mine (via CBCMusic.ca):

A Tribe Called Quest, 'Can I Kick It?'

The label “ATCQ Essentials” falls short of describing this track’s status in the world of music. ‘Can I Kick It?’ is quintessential Hip Hop, period. The 25 year old track combined eclectic and clever samples with feel-good raps and a little call-and-response for good measure. This has made it one of the most recognizable songs the world over, and one that will unquestionably kick any party up a notch (pun shamelessly intended). I don’t think I’ve ever answered a question with as much conviction as I do saying “yes you can!”

Fun fact: In exchange for letting the group use the integral ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ sample, Lou Reed got to collect all the royalties from ‘Can I Kick It?’ Yes—ATCQ didn’t make a dime from this legendary track.