Throwback Thursdays Vol 15

A Tribe Called Quest has a prominent, and often overlooked, place in hip-hop history. Alongside De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest (heron referred to as ATCQ) formed part of the Native Tongues satisfying the industry with their positive-minded, afrocentric lyricism and electric-sampled and jazz-influenced beats.

Rapper Phife Dawg, producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad and all-rounder Q-Tip’s fourth effort spawned Beats, Rhymes and Life (1996); their darkest album to date in terms of concept and unlike their previous releases, was tentatively received by critics. Although BRAL won’t be recognised in the same category as The Low End Theory (1991), Midnight Marauders (1993) or People’s Instinctive Travels and The Paths of Rhythm (1990) (try saying that when you’re drunk), the album is significant in a number of ways…

Firstly, BRAL was recorded and released during the East v West rivalry (OTU’s running theme this week) so on several tracks Q-Tip can be heard ironing out some misconstrued issues on where his alliances lie.

Secondly, 1996 saw the emergence of a heavier focus on producers and beats which began the shift in audience culture; from music which made people think to music which made people dance. ATCQ wanted to make people think and this saw the ‘frosty’ reception as mentioned earlier.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, BRAL saw the introduction of Q-Tip’s cousin Consequence, who made a substantial and notable contribution to the album leaving many believing he was a new member. As a consequence (like what I did there?) this saw the diminishing contribution from Phife Dawg, eventually leading to the group’s break up in 1998.

The track I’ve chosen this week is Stressed Out. It depicts exactly the state of the group in 1996, not only through the retrospective work on the boards (courtesy of J Dilla) and the serene, poignant work on the chorus (courtesy of Faith Evans) but also the core lyrical content. Apart from Consequence (spits the second verse on the album version, Phife does it in the video) it feels as if Q and certainly Phife are disillusioned with the uncontrollable direction hip-hop is headed and, aptly as it is the last track of the album, the cracks are beginning to appear in their strained and tired relationship.

Don’t sleep on this track. Although it will be disregarded when up against ATCQ’s other classics, it plays an imperative role in ATCQ’s history and if only more people had noticed when it first came round, maybe less would have been surprised when the group eventually disbanded.

A Tribe Called Quest (feat Consequence & Faith Evans) – Stressed Out (Produced by J Dilla)

Murray’s BDK Rating:ger

Up Next Week…

Think Godzilla original theme tune. Then add some goosebumps on the back of your neck. Don’t miss it.

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