After 3 classic albums in a row, A Tribe Called Quest was at the pinnacle of their game. But there comes a point in every artist’s career, where they cannot live up to their own standards they set. After the last 3 albums Tribe fans expected another classic album and would settle for no less. Unfortunately, ATCQ couldn’t live up to their own standards and dropped an album that wasn’t perfect. However, despite loads of criticism “Beats, Rhymes and Life” was still a great album that still showcased the Tribes talent.
Unfortunately, many critics and fans alike criticized “Beats, Rhymes and Life”. They expected another “Midnight Marauders” or “Low End Theory”, but that wasn’t possible. The Tribe moved on and matured their sound. They changed up their production and brought in Detroit native Jay Dee to form The Ummah, meaning brotherhood. The album showed a new form of production that we weren’t accustomed to hearing. Jay Dee used innovative but different techniques in his production, that at times tended to sway away from that vintage Tribe sound. ATCQ also brought in a new emcee into the fold, native Queens' representative Consequence. This then unknown Emcee held his own with the legendary duo of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, and showed he wasn’t just another weak affiliate.
ATCQ revealed a more mature sound on “Beats, Rhymes and Life”, but they continued to be the same group we grew to love over the years. Once again they put out an album filled with diversity and consistency. “1nce Again” and “Stressed Out” were the Tribes two big hits on the album. Both featured great production over a more friendly radio type sound. Nevertheless both are certified classic ATCQ material. “Phony Rappers” is Q-Tip, Phife and Consequences tales of being challenged by wack Emcees in the streets. Of course the Tribe rips each wannabe challenger with ease. The true gem of “Beats, Rhymes and Life” is the amazing “Get A Hold”. Production wise the track is spectacular! The melodic voice in the hook, combined with Q-Tips lyricism, make the track a true masterpiece. “My name's the Abstract, now let me give you some info. Got the diamond in the back, and the sunroof shit. That makes the hard-core Emcees resort to being bitch. And I don't give a shit about being wild rich. Just make me comfortable and I'll deal with it. Your lust for the riches make a nigga feel sick …Lay your ego on the ground so that you'll benefit. You can take these words and relay it to your click. Take some time for your mind and get off them head trips”.
“Motivators” is yet another tribe banger. Newcomer Consequence especially blazes the track with his verse. “Yo, if I ruled the world. It wouldn't be that gassed shit, niggas will make the light swirl…Without a doubt, I cut Emcees like the cord. Cuz I does more than that Emcee from the Lords”. More standout tracks include the sample filled “The Pressure”, “What Really Goes On” and “The Hop”. The short but satisfying “Separate/Together” is another Tribe love song that we are all accustomed to hearing over the years. “Sometimes men and women look at themselves and see bliss. Through experience we tend to exist. That's through our past or our caretakers, the instance is in particular, so you need to recognize that”. (Q-Tip) Throughout the album, ATCQ proved that they are not the generic or one-dimensional Emcees that make up most of Hip-Hop today. Their variety in topics on all levels made them one of the most entertaining groups of all time.
The main problem (if you can call it that) with “Beats, Rhymes and Life” was, it was a different sound for the time it was released. 1996 was a year in which Hip Hop was changing and unfortunately the Tribe didn't fit the stereotypical sounds being popularized. "Beats, Rhymes and Life" showcased an older sound that was smart and conscious, not formulated. But beyond all that, “Beats, Rhymes and Life” is a spectacular album. It’s a shame many heads slept on the album. Because deep down it’s the same Tribe sound; great, funky production combined with spectacular lyricism. From the vivid storytelling, to the intellectual tracks, they all add up to an album full of heart and soul. “Beats, Rhymes and Life” will always be in the category of great albums that were overlooked, but the album deserves to be more than just a slight overlook. It’s an amazing album that captures the true essence of Hip-Hop, and deserves a place in every person’s collection.