A Tribe Called Quest is one of the most influential Hip Hop groups of all time, an act that paved the way for countless rappers to be simply themselves. They laid the blueprint for both quirky and thoughtful alternative rap with lyrical content that was funny, observant, abstract, and full of lightheared confidence. Sonically, Tribe’s production masterfully connected jazz and Hip Hop like no other group before them.
Part of the alternative rap click, The Native Tongues, Tribe solidified their jubilant arrival with their eclectic, exuberant 1990 debut, People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythms, which boasted a couple of Tribe classics and was a showcase for rapper/producer Q-Tip’s brand of playful, inspirational lyricism.
But it was their two subsequent releases, widely regarded as two of the best, most influential Hip Hop albums of all time—1991’s The Low End Theory and 1993’s Midnight Mauraders— that cemented their place as innovators with a unique ear for linking fluid, bottom-heavy jazz, with Hip Hop drums and sensibilities. Following original member Jarobi White’s departure, their sophomore effort also served as a further introduction to Phife’s lighthearted, boastful rhyme skills, which would continue throughout Tribe’s career.
Combined with their quirky, self-reflection, Tribe’s core sound was completely its own, and over the years has proven to be both timeless and endlessly influential.
“We’re all [Q-Tip’s] sons,” Pharrell Williams has said. “Myself, J Dilla, Kanye, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Tribe albums.”
We’ve combed through their catalog to offer 25 of their dopest songs.