Fans See Tribe Called Quest Breakup As End Of An Era

News that rap trio is packing it in is greeted with sadness and some understanding.

News that A Tribe Called Quest are in the home stretch of their illustrious

hip-hop career was greeted with sadness and reflection by fans, some of whom

see the impending breakup as the end of an era in rap.

"It just seems that all the people who were associated with Native Tongues

have gone their separate ways," said 19-year-old fan Andrew Ryall, referring to

the loose conglomeration of hip-hop artists who have spent years stressing

positivity in their music. "The spirit isn't there anymore, and I think that's really

bad for hip-hop."

While other Native Tongues Posse-affiliated artists such as De La Soul, Queen

Latifah and KRS-One continue to release albums to critical acclaim and small

sales, Ryall said he thinks the breakup of Tribe marks the end of an era

when such groups could be counted on for turning out a brand of hip-hop that

spoke for a certain segment of rap's audience.

As the trio tours the country, opening for the Beastie Boys, fans are reporting

that Tribe, best known for including jazz samples and rhythms into their hip-hop

on songs such as the hit "Scenario," have been announcing onstage from

venue to venue that their next album, The Love Movement (Sept. 29), will

be their last.

Representatives for Jive Records, the label the group has called home for the

past nine years, confirmed the disbanding. Earlier this year, label

representatives denied rumors that the group was, in fact, breaking up.

Fans and rap colleagues were taken aback by the news.

"I'm genuinely sad to hear that," former House of Pain frontman Everlast (born

Erik Schrody) said when informed of the potential split Thursday afternoon.

Calling from a tour stop in Los Angeles, where he's playing to drum up support

for his forthcoming blues/folk-flavored solo debut, Whitey Ford Sings The

Blues, Everlast said that Tribe are one of his favorite groups and called the

news "a real loss for hip-hop." However, as someone who has left a popular

group, he said he could understand why Tribe might be calling it a day.

"People said I was crazy when I left House of Pain," he explained, "but I was

genuinely unhappy. If that's what's going on with them, then I wish them luck

with whatever they decide to do. If you're unhappy, you've gotta do what's right

for yourself to help yourself feel good."

Brian Bodnarchuk, a 24-year-old student who attended both the Wednesday

show in Milwaukee and the Thursday show in Chicago, said that at both shows,

Q-Tip (born Jonathan Davis) announced from the stage that The Love

Movement would be the group's last album.

"Everyone booed loudly and for a good length of time," Bodnarchuk said of the

audience's reaction. "Instead of giving a reason, though, [Q-Tip] turned the

mood around and thanked all the hip-hop fans for making it possible for them to

make music, and they thanked the Beastie Boys a couple of times for 'taking

them under their wing when no one else would.' "

Postings by mournful fans on the Usenet newsgroup rec.music.hip-hop, an

online forum for fans to discuss rap music, confirm that Q-Tip announced the

breakup from the stage in Chicago and Milwaukee and indicate that he had

also made similar announcements at tour stops in Portland, Ore., and

Vancouver, British Columbia.

A Tribe Called Quest formed in Queens, N.Y., in 1988 when rappers Q-Tip and

Phife (born Malik Taylor) and DJ Ali (born Ali Shaheed Muhammad) met as

students at the Murray Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in New

York City. They began to make a name for themselves by appearing on albums

by De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, leading the group to be signed by Jive

in 1989.

They, along with fellow rappers De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah,

Monie Love and Black Sheep, made up the Native Tongues Posse. Other

artists more loosely affiliated with Native Tongues included KRS-One, Leaders

of the New School and hard-rockers Living Colour.

A Tribe Called Quest's 1990 debut album, People's Instinctive Travels and

the Paths of Rhythm, pioneered the use of jazz samples in hip-hop and

spawned such widely recognized hip-hop classics as "Bonita Applebum," "I Left

My Wallet in El Segundo" and "Can I Kick It."

They followed in 1991 with The Low End Theory, another widely

acclaimed hip-hop classic, which spawned such songs as "Check the Rhyme"

and "Scenario." By the time they released Midnight Marauders in 1993,

the explosion of gangsta rap was just kicking into high gear, but they still scored

hits in the form of "Award Tour" and "Oh My God." Beats, Rhymes and

Life, issued in 1996, was also warmly received by critics, but Tribe

began to stick out like a sore thumb in a scene dominated by such hardcore

rappers as Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dogg and the Notorious B.I.G.

Their final album, The Love Movement, has been delayed several times

and is currently scheduled for release in late September.

And while many fans say they are saddened by the breakup, some say they

understand as well. "Of course I'm not happy about it," Ryall explained. "But I

feel like it's probably time. The effort wasn't really there for their last album and

the stuff I've heard since then didn't reflect the same effort in the production and

the lyrics."

A Tribe Called Quest's next show opening for the Beastie Boys is at Molson

Park Arena in Barrie, Ontario, on Saturday. From there, they play Montreal,

Auburn Hills, Mich., and then wrap things up at the Continental Airline Arena in

East Rutherford, N.J., on Aug. 22.