Looking more like a Clinique product than a rap album (at least from the
cover), A Tribe Called Quest's swan song is going to be looked at as all
kinds of things -- a statement, a milestone, a historical document. But
it's going to be awfully hard to look at The Love Movement as a
record. It's too loaded, and our minds are a little clouded: How
could Quest call it a day?
Maybe they're smart enough to choose burning out over fading away, but if
The Love Movement's any indication, they're beating the slump that
they seemed to be mired in during the recording of their previous record,
Beats, Rhymes and Life. It was too even, too flat, as if the fun had
sucked out of Q-Tip, Phife and Ali. Happily, at least some of the vitality
Midnight Marauders -- surely one of the most unassuming hip-hop
masterpieces -- must have just skipped a generation.
Bumping Quest's practically trademarked mid-tempo groove, The Love
Moment is consistently high-spirited, pretty unusual for a breakup
album. A thick,
sine-wave bass drives most of the record (check, especially, "Hot 4 U" and
"Against the World"), the sound they've leaned on for three albums and a
purer but less exciting sound than the fuzzy, intense bass that Ron Carter put
down for The Low End Theory. Filling out the space are clipped, thin
keyboard and guitar lines and insistent (but, again, thinly sliced) beats.
It sounds like a recipe for failure, but it's a flavor; all the pieces
slide into place neatly, precisely -- with a definite, insistent thump. Tip
and Phife are in their usual fine form. As MCs, they have almost nothing in
common -- Tip has a nasal, abstract (well, duh) flow, while Phife's
full-throated delivery and I-wish-I'd-thought-of-that couplets are, like
any good joke, just this side of predictable -- but they're the perfect
team, never at odds despite their differences.
Given that it's, at least in retrospect, a death-bed record, it's odd how
The Love Movement is unbelievably lively. From the declaration of
purpose that starts the album, "Start it Up," through "Da Booty" with its
intro, to the "La Di Da Di" sampling closer, "Rock Rock Y'all" (featuring
newcomers Punchline, Wordsworth, Jane Doe and Mos Def), the record kicks --
it's fun. It may not -- as "the lone ranger" suggests before bonus
track "Money Maker" -- "rectify music from its rectalness," but Quest probably
won't ever make a world-changing album again. You only get one or two,
And maybe that's what's driving Quest to call it a day. With The Low End
Theory, they really fired a shot heard 'round the world; more than just
being of obscenely high quality, that record changed music. And maybe
Midnight Marauders did, too. But revolutions require new voices, and
try as they might, Quest are now familiar old friends. We'll miss regular
infusions of their flow (or will we, given that The Source is reporting
imminent solo records), but we can forgive them for stepping aside before
people started saying their best days were past.
For Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali, The Love Movement is more than just a
decent way to end this phase of their careers. Instead of giving up the
ghost, they got on the good foot one last time.