By: Adrian Woods, Contributor
A Tribe Called Quest are one of the most influential and pivotal rap groups of all time. In 1985, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg started recording demos. Eventually, other group members Jarobi White and Ali Shaneed Muhammed would soon join, and in 1990, they would release their first studio album, something that would kickstart one of the best runs in hip hop history. Because of their strong lineup of albums, I thought it would be fun to rank them all.
6. The Love Movement (1998)
The Love Movement is by no means a bad album. In fact, it is pretty good. “The Love” and “Da Booty” are great songs, it sounds like it could be on their earlier works. It just does not seem like the group was as enthusiastic when making this album compared to the rest of their discography. Some songs, while not bad or horrible in any way, feel like they don’t reach their full potential. Also, the album cover for this is awful compared to the wonderful artwork of literally every other A Tribe Called Quest album. The cover is a white background with skinny white text. Lame.
5. Beats, Rhymes & Life (1996)
The groups most underrated work for sure, Beats, Rhymes & Life, has songs that could be compared to their early work. “The Jam” has a super groovy and funky beat to it that just makes you want to walk to it. The soulful feature of Tammy Lucus on the song “1nce Again” adds charisma to the song. “Mind Power” has a mix of drumming and keyboards that mix together so well over Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s rapping. Overall this album, while maybe not as great as A Tribe Called Quest’s very best top tier work, should definitely not be skipped when listening to the group’s discography.
4. We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service (2016)
It’s kind of a bummer that this album is so low on the list. Not only is We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service one of the best rap album finales/comebacks ever, but it’s also one of hip-hop’s best albums of the 2010’s. Released after Phife Dawg’s unfortunate passing, A Tribe Called Quest wanted to go out with a bang, so they went all out on this one. From Andre 3000 on the song “Kids…”, an Elton John sample on the song “Solid Wall of Sound,” Kendrick Lamar on “Conrad Tokyo” and many more, this album is quite versatile. Themes of the negatives of humanity including climate change, racism and police brutality are covered in the album. These themes continue to spread throughout the album, something that the group knew it needed to bring awareness to due to what was going on in real life at the time, and unfortunately is still happening now. A Tribe Called Quest could not have gone out in a better way than they did on this album.
3. Midnight Marauders (1993)
After two fantastic albums like People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths Of Rhythm and The Low End Theory to kick off a group’s career, you’d think the group would slow down or hit a roadblock and release something not on par with the others, but this was not the case with Midnight Marauders. Midnight Marauders at number three might be surprising as it is some fans favorite album of the group, and I don’t blame people for thinking that. Don’t let that fool you into thinking I don’t think this album is fantastic. There’s not a bad song on here or any of the A Tribe Called Quest albums remaining. The group drops some of their best material on here. “Steve Biko (Stir It Up)”, “Award Tour”, “Electric Relaxation” and “Oh My God” are just a few of the near flawless songs on this album. The rapping is once again top notch from Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. The tour guide that you hear throughout the album gives the album even more character than it already has. Another killer album from one of hip-hop’s pioneers.
2. People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths Of Rhythm (1990)
The debut album to kickstart A Tribe Called Quest’s career, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths Of Rhythm is fun, creative and is a killer start to the group’s discography. It has some of the best uses of samples in the group’s discography. The creativity and variety of these samples ranges from classic rock songs to psychedelic soul. On the song “Luck Of Lucien,’ one of the group’s best songs, it uses the beginning of The Beatles “All You Need Is Love”, and a remix of the Rocky theme song. In the song “Footprints,” you can hear Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” as well as borrowing from The Chamber Brothers song “Funky.” Q-Tip is the most prevalent on this album, and he doesn’t pull any punches on this album. His rapping is some of the best in the group’s discography, especially on songs like “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” and possibly the groups most well known song “Can I Kick It?.” Remixes of songs from this album from CeeLo Green, Pharrell Williams and J. Cole came out for the album’s 25th anniversary. Even if they’re not as good as the originals, it was cool to see these artists put their spin on these classic songs.
1. The Low End Theory (1991)
If People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths Of Rhythm was not enough to convince people that A Tribe Called Quest was here to make an impact on hip hop, look no further than The Low End Theory. Besides being one of hip hop’s greatest albums ever, this is one of the most quotable albums ever. Lyrically this album is creatively genius, with Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s near flawless flows throughout the entirety of the album. This has the perfect mix of both Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s rapping, as this was the album where Phife Dawg really shows he’s one of the best Em-C’s out there. Sometimes simplicity is key, and while the songs on this album don’t have the craziest samples, it doesn’t matter, the flows of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg make the songs work so well. “Vibes and Stuff’, “Check The Rhime” and “Butter” prove this point. This album has loads of classics, including “Excursions”, “Buggin’ Out”, “Jazz (We’ve Got)” and “Scenario” are some of the most well known hip-hop songs in history. The Low End Theory is not only a milestone in hip hop history, but in music history.