It is weird to think about it nowadays, but my love of A Tribe Called Quest could be attributed to Married...With Children of all things. If there two things I loved in the early nineties it was hip-hop and Al Bundy. Then one day watching Yo! MTV Raps a new video came on called Bonita Applebaum which the young brain of mine assumed was a Kelly Bundy reference. Before you laugh at that notion, I apparently was not the only one because a few years later PM Dawn included in their song Set Adrift on Memory Bliss the lines “Christina Applegate, you gotta put me on”. After picking up Peoples' Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm, this month’s induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame, it was clear that A Tribe Called Quest would be no one hit wonder releasing some of the greatest songs of the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.
Riding the second wave of great hip-hop (known back then as the new school) along with Jungle Brothers and De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest quickly went to the forefront of the new movement. Where the previous generation built their songs around rock music, and burgeoning gangsta rap genre out west was building songs around funk samples, Tribe and the Native Tongues went more mellow with jazz samples and out of the box samples like Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side.
Tribe even had one of the first Latin inspired tracks in hip-hop with I Left My Wallet in El Segundo about, well, the title explains it all. But the Spanish guitar that opens up the track sets the stage in one of the more entertaining tales in the history of rap. It is a shame nobody ever thought to turn it into a movie (it could at least have been as entertaining as all the House Party movies). Another stand out track on the album is Can I Kick It? a perfect call and response track that Tribe perfected on their five albums.
But it was Bonita Applebaum which included one of the most recognizable riffs in any rap song ever (and later bit by The Fugees in their version of Killing Me Softly). When LL Cool J’s love songs all come off with a bit of cheese, Bonita Applebaum was pure coolness. Even twenty plus years later, it is not just one of the bet songs in hip-hop history; it is one of the best songs ever. And their debut showed that A Tribe Called Quest makes the ultimate head nodding music.