Phife Dawg
Work It Out

phife-1.jpgIt’s been nine years since A Tribe Called Quest disbanded after the release of their fifth album, The Love Movement. But that hasn’t stopped fans from hoping the trio of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad would reunite. Arguably one of the greatest rap groups of all time, ATCQ (along with the Native Tongue crew) ushered in an alternative to gangsta rap in the early ’90s. As the group’s frontman, Q-Tip fused abstract rhymes with socially conscious messages. Phife, on the other hand, added humor with his inventive punch lines. This dichotomy resulted in three hip-hop classics—the gold selling People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990), and two platinum plaques for The Low End Theory (1991) and Midnight Marauders (1993). Those albums would influence an entire sub-genre of “alternative” hip-hop, spawning artists such as The Roots, Black Star, Slum Village and Kanye West.

Tribe’s fourth album, Beats, Rhymes and Life came in 1996, but was followed by rumors of the group being close to a break up. The industry chatter was confirmed when the Queens, NY collective announced they were disbanding after the release of 1998’s The Love Movement. Mr. Muhammad found success as part of R&B group Lucy Pearl with Raphael Saadiq and Dawn Robinson. Q-Tip released his debut solo disc, Amplified, in 1999. Spearheaded by the surprise hit “Vivrant Thing,” the LP went gold but was panned by diehard Tribe fans because of his departure from more poignant material. Phife, who released his own solo project, Ventilation: Da LP (2000), didn’t agree with Tip’s cleaner, more commercial image either. The two shared words and took subliminal jabs at each other on various tracks.
Over the years, Tip and Phife reconciled, which opened the door for rumors about a possible reunion. The first signs of real progress appeared when the trio embarked on the 2K Sports Bounce Tour late last year. Seeing the group back on stage brought hope to many Tribe fans, but to date there has yet to be any solid word on a new album. XXLMag.com decided to go straight to the source about a possible ATCQ resurrection and spoke with Phife about the future of the group.

People haven’t heard from you in a while. What have you been working on?
I was waiting to see what we were going to do, as far as A Tribe Called Quest was concerned. That’s been pretty slow, so I’m working on my new album now—Songs in the Key of Phife, Vol. 1. I’m only two songs deep, so it’s in the early stages.

What’s the status of a Tribe reunion at this point?
We were doing shows [the 2K Sports Bounce Tour in 2006], so I thought by doing that, we would be able to go in and knock out an album. But it didn’t happen yet and I can’t tell you when it’s going to happen.

What’s holding everything up?
I really don’t know but it would be nice to do it. I know that much.

How’s your relationship with Q-Tip and Ali?
Everyone is still cool. There is no beef. But I guess people aren’t ready to do the Tribe album, so we gotta move on.

Do you regret breaking up after The Love Movement?
Definitely. I thought it should have never happened. I remember one time, Tip said, “We’re breaking up because we’ve said everything we can say.” At first, I didn’t understand that. I didn’t appreciate it. Then I thought about it, and I was like, “You know what, he’s right. We’ve said all we can say as a group and it’s time to move on.” At least that’s how I thought at the time. But now that I think about it even more, we should have kept going. I think we could have done some damage.

How so?
We would have sold some more records. We would have been one of those groups people look at as the best. I really feel that way.

You don’t think people look at Tribe as one of the greatest groups ever?
I really don’t know. I’m not too sure. As an artist, you really don’t want to look at that. You want people to judge that for themselves. But for me, I really don’t see it.

If there was nothing left for you to say back in ’98, how would that change if you guys reunited now?
That’s a very good question and I’m not sure how it would be different. But it’s something we need to do. That’s the only way we’ll find out. When we were on the road, the chemistry was great. You couldn’t tell there was any ever beef when you see us on stage.

A lot of fans say you guys should get back together for the sake of hip-hop because the culture needs you. Do you think it’s fair to place that burden upon you guys?
Yeah, I do, actually. I think it’s fair to say that because you’re getting the original. You’re not getting anything made up. We would go into the studio and be ourselves—having fun and taking it back to where it was and how it should be. So I have no problem when people say that.

It sounds like this reunion rests on convincing Q-Tip.
I think so. It’s all about him wanting to do it. We can’t do it by ourselves. You gotta hope that he’ll be with it.

Did he say he was down on tour?
We never had that conversation on tour. We just wanted it to coincide, but it never really came up. I don’t know, man. I’m kind of fed up with it, but hopefully it will happen. It’s worth it.

Is it sad to see how negative hip-hop is today?
I’m kind of used to it. I think hip-hop has different stages. I don’t think it should be all positive. You have different walks of life, so you are going to have N.W.A, Mobb Deep and C-N-N. We label them as negative, but I enjoy those records. But I’m also not with hip-hop being all negative. Cats just have to learn to be themselves. That’s the problem. There are too many cats that want to be like Mobb Deep. You have to be yourself. Everybody can’t preach it like a KRS-One or Brand Nubian. And everybody can’t be killers like Mobb Deep and N.W.A. That’s the bottom line. You gotta be yourself. There is enough money in this for everybody to be themselves. But I don’t think it’s going to change, [even though] I wish it would. I blame the labels, because instead of looking for the next best thing, they are trying to duplicate [what’s hot].

If you guys don’t get back together, how will ATCQ be remembered?
I hope we’ll be remembered for being ourselves. That’s my main thing. We had fun doing what we did. Because when we did it, we didn’t look at it like, “We’re gonna be No. 1 on SoundScan.” We were hoping that happened, but we did it because we really liked to do it. When you’re naturally doing it, all the accolades come about and that’s when you really feel good about what you’ve done. But a lot of people are forcing the issue, like, “I gotta do this, so I can be this.”

  • NoMamesBuey

    GOAT album = Midnight Mauraders

    Q-Tip needs to make himself available to do the new Tribe album. Their homies De La Soul are still making dope albums, why can’t Tribe as well?

  • http://www.myspace.com/kinglj614 cook it at my grandmaz

    ATCQ IS THE STUFF REAL RAP I LOVE EM AND IM A 90s BABY

  • Holla

    Q-Tip needs to stop being a dick and get this reunion going. Your solo career ain’t going nowhere – u need Tribe just as much as they need you. Stop bullshitting.

  • Real Talk

    HELL YEAH…

    1 of the Greatest Hip Hop Groups EVER!!!!

  • smog

    ha phife is repping that crappy team that lost last night, yeah, the thing about tribe is that thier shit is always the same, they where like machines back in the day with that 94bpm on every song not to fast not to slow, same with the music, right in the middle, not to street, not to sophisticated, im sure they could do it again

    papoose + talib quali = lupe

  • thenewmovement

    atcq is dead fuckin old ass niggas. I aint interested in hearing nothing from this wack ass group. Face it you are no longer relevant old head.

  • young23

    This guy needs to stop begging q-tip cause obviously he is not interested. I have no respect for these broke ass rappers begging for chump change. This nigga need to do somethin about his recedin hairline. Damn homie what the hell happened to you.

  • the low end theroy

    stupid muthafucker on gayshit(smog) u must like that bullshit on the radio.Any hiphop ..true hiphop head knows that tribe gave us two of the best pound for pound classic lp’s of all time.we need them and others alike back in the game.because there are idiots like smog that keeps the real from getting out.STOP WATCHING CHANNEL ZERO (B.E.T)…WHITE EXE.ARE PROGRAMING HOUSE NIGGAS..THATS WHY OPRAH PUT HIPHOP ON BLAST.TRIBE SOUNDS THE SAME TO YOU BECAUSE YOU CAN ONLY HEAR THE SAME OL BULLSHIT THAT IS REPRODUCED A ZILLION TIMES ON THE RADIO.hiphop is dead…..

  • Whoa

    They really need to be together again. Cause except for Lupe Fiasco (okay maybe Mr. West) who’s doing alternative on a mainstream level? Nobody!

  • john cochran

    I’m sure there’s ol heads that want to here that and good for them, but
    I…DONT…CARE

  • big kev

    ATCQ is the second best hip hop group of all time behind GANGSTARR. PERIOD!

  • YOGI

    Yo ATCQ where one of the pioneers of the backpack movement u gotta give props where its due first off second i understand where both q-tip and phife is comming from i mean for the album to be tight all members need to be on the same page so that they can flow as not 3 individuals so they can flow as one so if one member aint feelin it because they established such a legacy for them to come together and put an album out that was some bullsh**t would damage wha they worked so hard to start if it wasnt for them there probaly wouldnt have no lupe’s, outkast,slum village,mos def, kanye, or even talib so instead of looking wha they did back then we need to step up and contiue on where the left off and stop worring about wha the past rappers did thats whas worng with hip-hop now we keep sayen its dead and that it aint the same becaus hiphop was built on change not if we dont start looken forward and stop looken back we’ll see the current gems we have now in the hiphop world

  • Danny

    smog Says:

    April 30th, 2007 at 11:22 am
    ha phife is repping that crappy team that lost last night, yeah, the thing about tribe is that thier shit is always the same, they where like machines back in the day with that 94bpm on every song not to fast not to slow, same with the music, right in the middle, not to street, not to sophisticated, im sure they could do it again

    papoose + talib quali = lupe

    ^^^ Gay + Homo = lupe

  • Focus

    as far as tribe go all i got to say is

    1st album- near classic
    2nd album- dope
    3rd album – classic
    4th album – superior
    5th album – not considered

    none of these half ass rappers nowadays can not honestly say that

    jezzy, wayne,jeeny jones, etc

    i challenge you 90′s baby to name one rapper that can match that

    riddle me that

  • Dr Flav

    Tip get off that boho, GQ ish, get with the guys and make it happen, we need that. Your verse on Busta album was piff. The 5 Ft Assassin, What up? Phife Dawg put the athletic jersey game on the map before they was callin em throwbacks, stay real we aint forgot about you, its gonna come together, for the real folk, it always does.

  • http://xxl mikenice

    I read awhile ago, that Q-tip said no label was willing to finance a true Tribe album. He said you can’t make a true Tribe album with a$250,000 budget with sample clearances,etc.

  • Taylz

    Damn…commenting on what someone wrote earlier, Tribe and Gangstarr. Who’s better? Can you even compare? Think what hip hop would be without the influence of either group. Could you even imagine never hearing either group? Like if Tribe or Gangstarr ever existed? How sad would that be.

  • beeyo

    Much, much, much respect to ATCQ, but I’m tired of hearind ol head rappers talking about other ol head rappers. KRS this, N.W.A. that, THE OLD SCHOOL IS NOT GONNA SAVE ANYTHING. We need to respect our past, but keep movin towards the future. This shit is fucking retarded, the only ol skool rappers I’ve heard that sound up to date are Rakim, and Kool G. KRS, and I love him, X up all day, but he sounds like an old fart on wax nowadays. Fuck, I wish everyone would get off everyone elses dick and learn to walk on their own two.

    Hip hop aint dead, its just a retard.

  • http://www.bia2.com shahriyar jan

    best group in asians history,
    i mean europe

  • http://wwww.yahoo.com STEEL CITY

    man this shit need to happen yesterday so serious hip hop is on its last leg i aint sayin they can revive it alone but who better to jump off the jump off

  • the low end theroy

    beeyo :there is no future witout a past ….without the pioneers where would half of these so called rappers get there flow or better yet there inspiration.hip-hop was a 2way street not a one way…you got even the old heads copy cating the south DJ QUICK….DIRTY WEST… COME ON MAN…IF ANY OLD HEAD IS READING DO YOU…. HIP HIP IS A NO CLONE ZONE… (ROOTS)

  • Karen

    they need to get they shizit together and dew it up with paul wall

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  • http://www.myspace.com/alienbrain Rashid

    As much as I love Tribe, I am not really looking forward to a “reunion” album from them. History has shown that reunion albums always suck. In my opinon, their last album was aiight, and they have nothing else to prove. If it’s just for the love of making music together, then it will show through the quality of the material. So far, it all has a cloud of obligation hanging over it, and thus doesn’t arouse any hope of a return to greatness.

  • johnny rebel

    the greatest group of all time.

  • the low end theroy

    a tribe called quest=classic ….point blank we need real hiphop ….the best trio ever..q-tip ,phife and muhhammed please breath some life in to this weak as game..lyrics to go……90′s baby no…but a real hiphop head not a product of channel zero get rite ….

  • the low end theroy

    a tribe called quest=classic ….point blank we need real hiphop ….the best trio ever..q-tip ,phife and muhhammed please breath some life in to this weak as game..lyrics to go……90′s baby no…but a real hiphop head not a product of channel zero get rite ….

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/southatl gotta findaway cuz im buggin out

    tribe is 1 of the best ever. phife was on target, everyone can’t preach like krs and everyone aint a killer like nwa. a new quest album would be the shhhh… maybe a quest outkast collabo

  • da_realting

    tribe called quest the best group ever!!!!!!word!!!

  • http://mwicker.blogspot.com/ a2poet

    best hip hop group to ever touch a stage, bar none. I think Tip is probably worried about making a come-back and flopping on some Michael Jordan shit but they need to make it happen anyway.

  • k3n

    these fucking idiots acting all ignorant as if ATCQ is irrelevant. Shit I’m only 18 and I’ve been banging Tribe for 2 years mayne. Midnight Marauders = Classic shit. Its time hip hop stops loving the smell of its own farts and start making real music. Oh and for the record, 2 greatest hip hop groups of all time = Outkast & ATCQ dang!

    “My lips is like a oowop as i start to spray it..”

  • Baz

    There are too many American rappers with faggot names these days.

  • http://myspace.com/laif LaiF

    if they do it, i will support it

    L

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