A Tribe Called Quest is to hip hop what Pink Floyd is to Rock n Roll. With humble beginnings in Queens, New York, the group blossomed from the friendship of Jonathan Davis (Q-Tip) and Malik Taylor (Phife Dawg). Along with acts like Jungle Brothers and De La Soul — they revitalized East Coast rap, setting the stage for the rise of mainstream and alternative hip hop alike.
Their style, a synthesis of avant-garde production and authentic lyricism, paved the way for the conscious and jazz rap movements. Alongside other upbeat artists like Digable Planets, Us3, and Guru, ATCQ opened up the world of afrocentrism to a wider audience.
The original members of Tribe are Jarobi, a prominent collaborative mind in the creativity of the groups song ideas, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, the DJ behind their soundboard, and the MCs, Phife Dawg and Q-Tip.
Following appearances from Q-Tip on the debut albums of De La Soul (3 Feet High and Rising’s “Buddy”) and the Jungle Brothers (Straight Out the Jungle’s “The Promo” and “Black is Black”), Tribe’s debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was released in 1990. It featured the hit singles “Bonita Applebum,”“Can I Kick It?,” and “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo.” Their next two albums—1991’s The Low End Theory (featuring the hits “Check the Rhime” and the classic posse cut “Scenario”) and 1993’s Midnight Marauders (featuring the hits “Award Tour” and “Electric Relaxation”)—are considered two of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time.
Their 1996 album Beats, Rhymes, and Life debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Rap Album category. Their fifth album, 1998’s The Love Movement, featured the hit “Find a Way” but would be their last album for years as Q-Tip and Phife focused on their solo careers.
Phife Dawg died March 22, 2016 as a result of complications from diabetes. Before Phife’s passing, the group reunited on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform “Can I Kick It?” on November 13, 2015 in a celebration of their debut album’s 25th anniversary. They went on to record what would become the group’s final album, We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, which was released on November 11, 2016. It became their second album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart.