Tag Archives: Rhymes & Life


A Tribe Called Quest
Beats, Rhymes & Life, 1996

Before the release of A Tribe Called Quest’s final album, 1998’s The Love Movement, rapper/producer/majordomo Q-Tip promised nothing less than hip-hop’s Dark Side of the Moon. That prediction seemed remarkably off-base upon release: even with the breakup hype, the record was not a smash, and in the years that followed most die-hard Tribe fans chose to remember the group’s first three albums as the pinnacle of the band’s career, if not hip-hop in general, while ignoring their later work. But listening to Beats, Rhymes & Life today — the album that first signaled a break from the old ways — I think I understand what Tip was going for. On a cultural and commercial level, of course, there is no reasonable comparison to be made. But sonically it’s a different story. There’s a consistent, subtle energy to Beats that finds its way under the skin over time, not unlike those better Floyd records. The music molds itself to Q-Tip’s mellow, laid-back persona. BPMs stay steady from track-to-track, samples are filtered well below the rhythm section in the mix and the energy never flags. This is hip-hop reimagined for rooms: dense, ambient, sophisticated and above all extremely well-considered. What seemed cold in ’96 strikes me as nothing less than prescient today.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/03%20Motivators.mp3]


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