On March 22, 2016, the hip-hop community lost another important member of the 90’s era.
Once he passed, an outpour of love and recognition came from fans of all ages. I, myself, was at a lost when he passed. I was not expecting him to pass away at all. I knew he kept a low profile, like other members of the group, but I never knew of his health issues and how severe they were. When Phife first passed away, my first question was, “will anyone keep the legacy of A Tribe Called Quest going?”. For the record, when I say keep the legacy going, I don’t mean just buying a $30 shirt at Urban Outfitters with The Low End Theory album artwork on it.
A Tribe Called Quest is one of the most important hip-hop acts in hip-hop history. Taking a page from their predecessors De La Soul and Kwame with their hippie/colorful/artistic style and approach to music, the group’s personal style matched their music with blending hip-hop and jazz, which would be their signature sound. Contrast to the music of the early 90’s, which consisted of mostly gangsta rap, A Tribe Called Quest created music that touched on topics their contemporaries didn’t talk about, including consumerism and date rape. A Tribe Called Quest led the movement of alternative hip-hop and was one of the influences of the neo-soul genre throughout the 90’s.
Other than their sonic influences, A Tribe Called Quest has influenced the careers of Kanye West, Pharrell, Outkast, The Roots, and Kendrick Lamar. A Tribe Called Quest has a deeper meaning and impact than others like to believe. The group gave something to young black men who came before that, that people often forget about.
A Tribe Called Quest gave a voice to a group of black men who were comfortable with their masculinity. During the beginning and the prime of the group's success, most rappers were either bold, tough, and in your face (i.e N.W.A, Public Enemy, KRS-One) or pushed their hypersexual image (i.e LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane); A Tribe Called Quest took a different approach. They tapped into the male ego and the male’s mentality, openly discussing why men do the things they do. At the time, most people saw the group as soft, but in the long run, it was groundbreaking; it’s what almost every rapper is or trying to do now in hip-hop. A Tribe Called Quest taught black men it’s perfectly fine to be artistic and creative. It taught young black men that there’s still a place for them in hip-hop, even if they don’t want to flaunt their masculinity all the time.
In a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is at an all time high, and toxic masculinity is one of the most talked about topics, we needed a group like A Tribe Called Quest to come back and reteach a generation of young men and women how you can express yourself and still be respected. With their new album, We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, they remind music audiences of their legacy and what they brought to the table known as hip-hop. Their new album made me feel good about music and hip-hop. Their album reminds me of the feelings you get when you see your favorite cousin at the family functions. Sonically and lyrically, the final album from A Tribe Called Quest to hip-hop fans is what a Star Wars movie is to nerds. It’s an album true to its genre and something both the older generation can value, and the younger generation can listen to with appreciation.
Recently, A Tribe Called Quest made a memorable appearance on Saturday Night Live, with host Dave Chappelle. Performing “We the People” and “The Space Program”, the group proved once again their legacy is here to stay and won’t be forgotten. Their recent television performance caused an abundance of approval and love, which lets me know, the younger generations will continue to invest and learn from A Tribe Called Quest. We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service may be their final album, but believe me, this group isn’t going anywhere, their services are still needed.
If you haven’t, please go and listen to their album! This is an album that will be on repeat for the next few days.