Back in 1990, a small-unknown group emerged from the shadows of Hip-Hop. This foursome from Queens was different to say the least. They combined smooth flowing lyricism over funky jazz rhythms and dared to put out music they first and foremost liked. They weren’t thugs or players; they were just themselves, a group who had a passionate love for the culture of Hip-Hop and the music they represented. Little did we know that these four Native Tongue members would eventually grow to become one of Hip-Hop’s biggest and most influential groups of all time.
Consisting of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White, A Tribe Called Quest emerged onto the Hip-Hop scene as part of the Native Tongue family. And while fellow members De La Soul and The Jungle Brothers were already established as Hip Hop great's with their debut albums, A Tribe Called Quest was the last of the Native Tongue Family to release an album. They released their debut LP, “Peoples Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm” in 1990, and the impact was monumental.
“Peoples Instinctive” is one of the few albums in Hip-Hop history that offered something completely new and refreshing. It was almost a breath of fresh air as the political sounds of Ice Cube and Public Enemy were at their height. The Tribe’s originality and unique sound is what mostly drew the Hip-Hop world to the group. And at the time few could imagine the albums magnitude as ATCQ and “Peoples Instinctive” would help spawn many imitators and influence a generation to come.
In Hip-Hop few artists can emerge on the scene and immediately drop a certified classic album they’re first time around. However, ATCQ achieved this and did it in ways words cannot describe. “People’s Instinctive” is a flawless masterpiece in every sense of the word. From Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Tip’s production to Phife’s but mainly Q-Tips lyricism, it all came together to form a sonic landscape called A Tribe Called Quest. While most of the records coming out at that time were either full of political rage or heavy funk samples, the Tribe dropped an album that offered something new and completely original. But what separated ATCQ from the rest of the industry was, while most artists were concerned with attaining sales, ATCQ was concerned with making good music that they liked first. And this is never more evident than on their debut masterpiece “Peoples Instinctive”.
From beginning to end, People’s Instinctive is filled with nothing but classic joints. “Bonita Applebum” is the timeless masterpiece that helped put ATCQ on top of the Hip-Hop world. The track is a perfect love song and is still as mind blowing and ground breaking as is it was over 10 years ago. With a silky smooth serenade of lush vocals and mesmerizing production, “Bonita Applebum” provides a soothing atmosphere of tranquillity even to this day. The track's production was simply ahead of its time, as it would be duplicated and imitated for years to come.
“I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” is the comical tale of Q-Tip and Ali Muhammad’s trip across the border. However, Tip forgets his wallet in the mists of a beautiful woman’s presence. “Pulled out the wallet and I saw this wicked beautiful lady, she was a waitress there. Put the wallet down and stared and stared. To put me back into reality, here's Shaheed: "Yo, Tip, man, you got what you need?" I checked for keys and started to step. What do you know, my wallet I forget”. The tale is a prime example of classic storytelling and vivid lyricism that can almost transport you to the scene Q-Tip describes.
However, maybe their biggest hit on “Peoples Instinctive”, “Can I Kick It” is the classical head nodding, lyrically amazing track that brings back the feel of Hip-Hop in the early 90’s. Every tribe fan can remember the first time hearing the tracks highly quoted and duplicated hook. “Can I kick it? Yes, you can! Well, I'm gone (Go on then!)”. If one track can represent the albums overall feel, than “Can I Kick It” is a perfect example.
As with any Tribe album the hits are numerous, almost to the point where it is hard to mention all of them. The classic production of “Footprints” is still as fresh and innovating as it ever was as is the DJ Red Alert influenced “Public Enemy” and “Rhythm (Devoted To The Art Of Moving Butts)”. Continuing to leave the listener in awe, “Push It Along”, “Description Of A Fool”, “Ham N’ Eggs” and the comical tale of “Luck Of Lucien” are all vintage ATCQ material that makes “Peoples Instinctive” never filled with a dull moment.
It’s amazing how “Peoples Instinctive” can still deliver the same experience listening to it as it did when it was first released in 1990. Lyrically and production wise the album is still light years ahead of its time. The production is still as unique and trend setting as it first was and helped contribute to the albums mellow, yet hard feel. There were also no groundbreaking samples filled throughout the album, it was simple. But that’s what made it a great album. “Peoples Instinctive” is one of the few albums that can capture the essence of the Hip Hop culture at its finest. And just to think, the album was just the start of a historical career for A Tribe Called Quest, and was only the beginning in a long line of classic albums to come from the group from Queens.