5 songs that will forever have A Tribe Called Quest to thank
Before the band releases its first album in 18 years, we reflect on their influence.
Ever since L.A. Reid recently revealed that A Tribe Called Quest would be releasing a new album “very soon” — and not a compilation album, not one comprised of unreleased tracks, but a new studio LP — we couldn’t help but think of all their classic music that has contributed to our contemporary earworms. The upcoming album was recorded before the passing of member Phife Dawg making the trio’s 1998 release The Love Movement their last—until now. So here are five songs (a brief round-up because the band’s influence is unequivocal but immeasurable) that should largely thank Q-Tip, Phife, and Ali Shaheed.
“Killing Me Softly”
Lauryn Hill kicks off the Fugees’ cover of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” with a slowed intro, but that plucky, wobbly four-note riff that ushers in the song’s tempo change comes by way of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum” which snagged it from Rotary Connection’s 1967 song “Memory Band.”
Jay Z also referenced the track’s title on his Pharrell-assisted American Gangster cut “I Know”: “This is about lust / Cold sweats occur when I’m not with her / My presence is a must- must- must- / Bonita Applebum, I gotta put you on / If I didn’t when we cutting, the feeling would be too strong.”
The Wayans Bros. Theme Song
If you don’t rightfully recognize the reverberating clang and jazzy piano chords of this as ATCQ’s “Electric Relaxation,” you certainly do as the opening theme song to the WB’s Wayans Bros. sitcom during its first season from 1995 to 1996.
And if the looped sample on J. Cole’s “Forbidden Fruit” feels too similar, the credit should correctly go to jazz musician Ronnie Foster’s “Mystic Brew,” which is where ATCQ nabbed the sound in the first place. Also, if “I like ’em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian” isn’t one of the first rap lyrics you ever learned (iconic and easy!), you’re silly.
Jay Z’s “22 Two’s” is already impressive as the Reasonable Doubt cut features the rapper delivering phonetic variations of the word “two” 22 times in one verse, but the call-and-response he employs on the chorus is borrowed directly from ATCQ’s “Can I Kick It?” From now until forever, when that is asked by a stranger or friend alike, you make sure to respond, “Yes, you can!”
Even Drake put his own twist on the track’s title on his own “Show Me a Good Time” when he rapped: “Tell me can we kick it like Ali Shaheed and Phife Dawg / people really hate when a backpack rapper get rich / and start livin’ that life dawg.”
The deep bass that undercuts the dreamy intro of Soul for Real’s biggest (and maybe only) hit “Candy Rain” comes straight from ATCQ’s “Check the Rhime,” doing its best to give the childlike bouncy-ballad a bit of a grittier backbone.
And like the aforementioned “Can I Kick It,” “Check the Rhime” instilled in us yet another call-and-response classic: “You on point, Phife?” / “All the time, Tip.”
“Why You Wanna”
The title to T.I.’s “Why You Wanna” was spawned from a lyric on ATCQ’s “Find A Way” from the band’s fifth and final (though not for long) album The Love Movement which, in turn, gave T.I.’s chorus its foundation: “Hey, why you wanna go and do that love, huh?”
Originated by one Tip, and revived by another.