If A Tribe Called Quest are really as "on point" as they've always claimed, then a little hiatus shouldn't hurt their ability to turn the magic on again.
The group's notoriously shortest member, Phife Dawg, says he, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammed have been seriously discussing a reunion project. Even Jarobi, who swapped his mic for a frying pan when he left to attend culinary school following the release of the group's 1990 debut, is back in the fold.
"We're about to start this Tribe album pretty soon," Phife said Wednesday in Atlanta. "I'm not sure when, but pretty soon it's gonna be jumpin' off. We're talking right now, taking baby steps."
Phife said despite rumors that members of his crew stopped getting along, he and his former bandmates have always maintained some kind of contact with each other.
"It's been back and forth," the self-proclaimed Funky Diabetic explained. "It's not that we weren't really talkin', it's just that Ali and Q-Tip live in New Jersey, and me and Jarobi are out here in Atlanta. But we connect every now and then. I can't speak for everybody else, but for me, I felt like it was a must to do [after] the whole Jam Master Jay thing. That just brought everything to the forefront for me."
Tribe's last album, The Love Movement, was met with mixed reviews when it was released in 1998. Their first three projects however, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders, cemented the collective as one of the most innovative hip-hop acts of all time.
After the decade-old crew ran out of steam and broke up five years ago, Muhammed joined and later left the group Lucy Pearl, while Tip released his first and only solo album on Arista (a second album was shelved) (see "A Tribe Called Quest Calls It Quits"). Phife, who also released a solo album during that time, said he's also been focusing on life outside the music industry.
"I'm getting up there," said Phife, who was engaged, and then became single again, during the break. "I'm 33 years old now. I been doin' this since I was like 17, 18. I don't even have kids yet. So I'mma just enjoy life. I ain't even gonna front, I enjoyed the time off. I almost lost my dad on September 11. He'd been workin' at the [World] Trade Center since I was in second grade. Basically, I been doing the family thing."
Now that he's ready to began recording again, in addition to the slated ATCQ project, Phife is also planning a second solo album called Songs in the Key of Phife. The album will be distributed through his two-year-old indie label, Smokin' Needles Records; he also owns a production company called Riddim Kidz Inc.
When and if Tribe officially get back together, their album will be released on Jive. According to their original contract, they still owe the label one more LP.