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
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
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.
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