The End of the Quest?

A Tribe Called Quest

Have you ever seen any of the Back to the Future movies starring Michael J. Fox? Do you remember how he used a time machine to go back to when his parents were teenagers? The movie was pure fantasy, but the appeal had to be the ability to change your future. Many may fantasize today about getting a chance to do something differently and possibly change your present and future….or not. Some may wish to go back in time just to enjoy part of their younger years. Would you like to go back twenty years? If you were currently thirty years old or younger, more than likely you would not want to go back to being ten years old or a toddler. That is not appealing. However, if you are close to fifty years old or older, you might think about going back twenty years.

Such travel is possible through music. It is not uncommon for any of us to listen to music of the early 1990’s. I know I listen to music from even thirty or forty years ago and still enjoy it as much as music new to the market. In fact, I heard some news about a month ago, that allowed me to take such a trip back in time to the 1990’s. I heard about the final performance of the great hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest.

As soon as I heard the news, I decided to listen to some of the classic twenty-year-old works from the band. I must tell you it took me back in time, some of the music from before I was married, most of it I recall as a newlywed. Nevertheless, the music took me back in time, I loved it, and I am still listening. A Tribe Called Quest is one of what I like to call “thinking man’s” rap group. They are a part of the Native Tongue Posse, a collective of late 1980s and early 1990s hip-hop artists known for their positive-minded, good-natured Afrocentric lyrics, and for pioneering the use of eclectic sampling and later jazz-influenced beats. When you ask many of today’s rap artists who influenced them, almost all of them mention A Tribe Called Quest as one of their favorites. John Bush of Allmusic called them “the most intelligent, artistic rap group during the 1990s,” while the editors of ranked them #4 on their list of the “25 Best Rap Groups of All Time.”

In 2005, A Tribe Called Quest received a Special Achievement Award at the Billboard R&B Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta. In 2007, the group was formally honored at the fourth VH1 Hip Hop Honors. With a wonderful career full of hit music and critical acclaim, it would seem that A Tribe Called Quest would bring us music for a long time. In spite of this, last month the group announced they would disband after two shows opening for the Kanye West tour in New York City November 20 and 24th.  How appropriate that A Tribe Called Quest will end it all at Madison Square Garden as they grew up right in Queens.

Of course, this disbandment is not the first for A Tribe Called Quest. Going back to 1998, the band decided to call it quits in the middle of a very successful run of music. In an interview with The Source, the group cited their frustration with Jive Zomba as a significant factor in the breakup. Phife Dawg, a member of the group said the following: “I felt like I was happy to be on, of course. It took me a minute to latch on to the business side of things, ’cause it was just a happy-go-lucky time. Then eventually, as time went on, it started to slap me in my face. But as far as record labels, or whoever, they’re not gonna do us right… As far as our label, I really have no comment, duke”.

In 2006, the group reunited and performed several sold out concerts in the US, Canada and Mexico. I wonder if A Tribe Called Quest will reunite again in the future. I think if you asked Q-Tip, Phife Dawg or Ali Shaheed Muhammed individually they would most likely answer no. Maybe after a little time has passed they may get together for a performance or two. New music? Well, we still have not heard any more news about the new ATCQ album in a while. Therefore, I would say it is unlikely, but we will see. Is this the way the quest ends? If so, just take a ride back in the time machine about twenty years and listen to A Tribe Called Quest!

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