Despite their impending breakup after a decade of pioneering a form of jazz-tinged rap, the bohemian hip-hoppers A Tribe Called Quest insist they will remain close friends and could very well work together on projects in the future -- just not as the Tribe.
"We've all been friends for over 12 years and the dissolution of the group doesn't end our friendship," crewmember Jarobi said in a SonicNet online chat Tuesday. "Our personal relationships have never been better."
For 10 years, A Tribe Called Quest have given hip-hop fans much to think about -- be it their pioneering use of jazz samples, their support of the Tibetan Freedom Concerts or their evolution toward a sparser sound on their latest, The Love Movement, not to mention their announcement that they will be disbanding after promoting the album.
On Tuesday night, groupmembers Q-Tip, Phife, Ali and Jarobi continued with their tradition of making waves in the music industry and in fans' hearts, touching on such subjects as why they are disbanding, the message behind The Love Movement and their future plans.
"We all painted a picture of TCQ together," Q-Tip said, "and we're going to paint more pictures together because we did not split up as friends."
"We're splitting up basically because we want to express ourselves in different ways," Ali added. "We don't want to ruin TCQ in the ways that we want to express ourselves. We don't think that fans appreciate it. So it's time to say good-bye to Tribe. It was a good, long run [but] it's time for us to start something new."
A Tribe Called Quest formed in Queens, N.Y., in 1988 when rappers Q-Tip (born Jonathan Davis) 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 rappers De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, leading the group to be signed by Jive in 1989 with the addition of another rapper, known as Jarobi.
They, along with fellow rappers De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Monie Love and Black Sheep, made up a group of artists known as the Native Tongues Posse.
Despite Tribe's plans to break up, Phife told fans that the Posse may someday reunite. "I connect with Trugoy from De La [Soul] on a daily basis," he explained. "And maybe it'll happen, but I really can't call it at this stage in time. Phife is basically worried about Phife right now."
A Tribe Called Quest's debut album, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990), pioneered the use of jazz samples in hip-hop and spawned such widely recognized hip-hop classics as "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo," "Can I Kick It" and "Bonita Applebum."
Jarobi split with the group after its first album, but Tribe 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, also was warmly received by critics, but Tribe were clearly out of step with a scene dominated by such hardcore rappers as Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dogg and the Notorious B.I.G.
In response to this new breed of hip-hoppers, and with Jarobi back on board, A Tribe Called Quest released The Love Movement, a project the group has labeled its last album, which includes the tune "Da Booty" (RealAudio excerpt).
"Well, we noticed that the world was kind-of negative and a lot of people in hip-hop talked about their love of jewelry and money and love of cars," Ali explained. "We wanted to discuss the love of humanity, loving yourself, loving the real emotion that's relevant to life. Trying to keep things positive like we always do."
When asked what was the biggest cause of strife the group ever faced, members pointed fingers directly at their label, Jive Records, which they blamed for their album's delayed release. "[The] fact is that the record company only half-supports the record compared to what other artists receive from their labels," Ali explained. The group also said it couldn't talk much about its future solo-projects due to legal wranglings with Jive.
A representative for Jive said Thursday that A Tribe Called Quest still had albums due under their contract but refused to comment on how many albums were left and what arrangements were in the works to have the group fulfill its contract.
Despite their failure to talk in-depth about future recording-plans, Tribe did talk a bit about their immediate future. They confirmed that they will be embarking on a "farewell" tour and said that any shows were still in the earliest planning stages. Q-Tip, whose first post-A Tribe Called Quest song, "Hey," will appear on the forthcoming Slam soundtrack, also said he was writing a musical for New Line Pictures and will be appearing on the next album from soul artist D'Angelo.
Ali, meanwhile, said he'll be making an appearance on the next album from R&B artist Eric Benet.
"[I] can't really answer that question, because I have no knowledge of what my future has for me," Ali said, referring to a question about where he sees himself in 10 years. "[I just want to] thank you for all the support you've given us this entire decade and hope to see you in Chapter Two."