As gangsta rap was reaching new heights in the early and mid-1990s, and the flash of hip-hop was coming to the fore at the end of the decade, A Tribe Called Quest conformed to neither trend. They remained steadfastly themselves -- innovative, bright, socially conscious, clever -- and, in doing so, paved an alternative path to commercial success, releasing five albums that either went gold or platinum, including 1996's Billboard topper Beats, Rhymes and Life.
Phife Dawg, the Tribe rapper who died on Tuesday from complications from diabetes, was a lyrical embodiment of the group's approach. He laid out his philosophy of his responsibility as an MC in a 2000 interview with MTV News.
"They'd rather go with a catchy hook instead of lyrically listen to the whole song," Phife said told MTV News in a previously unreleased clip, from the week of the release of his only solo album, Ventilation: Da LP. "Get they drink and they smoke and they dance on, and that's it. But there's more to life than just that. You can get your party on, your groove on, or whatever, but there's people that go to work everyday. There's people that are on welfare everyday. There's people that go to the library and learn something everyday.
"We gotta kick something else to [kids], other than what kind of car I drive, or how many chicks I brought home from the party last night. It's cool, 'cause I get down like that, no problem, but let's give these youth something else.
"That's all this music is: a youth movement. If we fill they head with nothing but B.S., they gonna go out like that. Let's get it together."