A Tribe Called Quest: A look back and looking ahead
Jan. 08, 2016
NEW YORK (AP) — A Tribe Called Quest celebrated the 25th anniversary of its debut album, "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm," in November by re-releasing the album with remixes helmed by Pharrell, CeeLo Green and J. Cole.
The re-release is the first of several planned by the group.
"We have a 25th for 'The Low End Theory,' we have a 25th for 'Beats, Rhymes and Life,' we have a 25th for 'Midnight Marauders,' which all are pretty monumental moments for us personally as well," Q-Tip said.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, the group — including Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White — talked about celebrating 25 years in music, a possible tour, a Tribe biopic and more.
25 YEARS LATER
Q-Tip says one word describes Tribe reaching 25 years in music: humility.
"You go back and you look at everything and you're kind of like, 'Wow, I lived through a few lives' and it just happened so fast. It's somewhat overwhelming," he said. "Not trying to be egotistical or braggadocios, it has nothing to do with that, but it's like ... a lot of people don't get to see 25 in life."
Ask Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White if they want the group to hit the road again and they'll say yes. Asking Q-Tip will get you a different answer.
"I don't know. ... I really, I don't know brotha. I mean, who knows?" said Q-Tip, who was interviewed separately because he was running late.
When asked if he was open to the idea of touring, he said: "Everybody makes it look like it's me that's not open to (it)."
Tribe recently performed on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."
"These are my brothers. I know nothing but them. I only wanna work with them ... in terms of going on tour, I wanna go on tour with them," Phife Dawg said.
White chimed in: "And we always have fun together."
Muhammad added that it's exciting to see "a 15-year-old now discovering A Tribe Called Quest 25 years later" at a concert.
"The spirt of the music and the feeling and the love is strong. It's bigger than us."
Muhammad also shut down any rumors about tension between the bandmates.
"If there was tension you would feel it. Do you feel tension? So there it is," he said in a room with White and Phife Dawg.
CALLING ON THE YOUTH
On Tribe's new anniversary album, Pharrell remixed the classic "Bonita Applebum"; Green worked his magic on "Footprints"; and Cole remixed "Can I Kick It?" Muhammad said the band reached out to a number of younger hip-hop acts to re-work Tribe's music but not everyone was rushing to work with them.
"We reached out to many people. And I will go on record and say — and it might not be the most favorable thing to say — you reach out to people and there are some people that call you right back and there are some people who you got to chase," he said. "And you would think that with a legacy project and a group that I think stood for a lot for hip-hop and music, you know, bridging jazz to hip-hop, bridging so many different genres that people would be scratching to be a part of this celebration."
CURRENT STATE OF HIP-HOP
Tribe is easily one of the most respectable acts in the history of hip-hop. As for today's generation, the veterans are hoping to see more individuality.
"Just a lot of laziness, whereas back when we were doing it everybody had their own lane. Nowadays it's one on top of the other. 'Oh, this sold three million with that style. Let me duplicate that style and run with it.' In order for us to see the future everybody can't sound like Future. Like, everybody sounds like Future. Like, I don't know even know who's who outside of Future," Phife Dawg said.
Muhammad said contemporary rap needs more balance.
"You had N.W.A., you had the Geto Boys, you had Tribe Called Quest, you had Brand Nubians ... Sir Mix-A-Lot; they're worlds apart, but there was balance and you felt it globally. And we're not feeling the balance (now)," he said. "And with people mimicking other artists because it brings them notoriety or financial reward, the art is lost and the culture hurts, it suffers. So I love seeing artist like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Logic just kind of bringing more of a balance back to (hip-hop)."
THE BIG SCREEN
With the success of the N.W.A biopic "Straight Outta Compton," could there be a film on the horizon about Tribe's life?
The band's career was the focus of the 2011 documentary, "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest," but Muhammad said it only scratched the surface.
"As private as I am I'm like, 'No,' but I think so. ...I think there's a lot more to be told," he said, though he added: "It's a really vulnerable thing to open up that way. I don't know if I'm ready for that."
PHARRELL: TRIBE'S BIGGEST PHAN
"A Tribe Called Quest is the reason I began my journey in trying to discover the kinesthetic properties of music," Pharrell told the AP in a recent interview.
Muhammad said he always knew Pharrell would become an icon, and he even invited the performer to work with Tribe back in the mid-1990s.
"I brought him to a Tribe Called Quest session, he got on a song and nothing really happened with that song. I'll leave that there for him to tell," Muhammad said.