Tribe's Swan Song

The record kicks -- it's fun. Although it may not -- as "the lone ranger" suggests before bonus track "Money Maker" -- "rectify music from its rectalness."

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kinds of things -- a statement, a milestone, a historical document.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

been

sucked out of Q-Tip, Phife and Ali. Happily, at least some of the vitality

that drove

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

goofy

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,

after all.

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.