Phife Breaks Down His Ten Favorite A Tribe Called Quest Songs
Song: “Money Maker”
Album: The Love Movement (Limited Edition Only)
I thought the beat was hot, the bounce was dope, and I thought those were some of Q-Tip’s most poignant rhymes. I mean, he’s had a lot of dope songs, lines and things of that nature, but this song for me—even his off-key singing at the beginning—it was just dope, really really dope to me. That’s definitely one of my favorites, and it was one of the most slept-on that came from the Tribe. It was only on the limited edition of The Love Movement. I like that song a lot.
Song: “Verses From The Abstract”
Album: The Low End Theory
That’s one of my all-time favorite Tribe records—the track, the way he chopped up Heatwave’s “Star Of The Story,” I thought that was one of his most genius efforts to date, you know what I mean? “Excursions” is another of my favorites that he performs from the Tribe set—the bassline, and then when the drums hit, it’s crazy. It was definitely fun because we were young, energetic, and we were just kids doing what we loved doing. We probably should have had the business end of it more solidified, but again, you live and you learn and we were just kids. But it was definitely a fun time. Compared to the first album—back then I wasn’t coming to the studio as much, I wasn’t taking it as serious as I should have—but by the time we set out to do Low End, that’s when I was all in, all hands on deck, all systems go. So it was definitely a fun time, everybody was on the same wavelength, one hand was washing the other, that type of thing.
Song: “Award Tour”
Album: Midnight Marauders
Definitely. My experience with that was, I used to be back and forth between New York and going to visit Atlanta, because I had a girlfriend down there at the time. I remember being at a club in Atlanta, and I didn’t know—I was trying to figure out what the first single should be off Midnight Marauders; we were thinking “Oh My God” at first. It was between “Oh My God” and “Award Tour.” So my decision was made—I can’t speak for the rest of them—when I was at this club, Club Kaya, I think it was called something else at the time. But I remember being in there, and I just started talking to somebody near the speaker, and they were spinning some other record, I can’t remember what it was. And then they pretty much segued—I think it was DJ Nabs—into “Award Tour,” and nobody had heard it yet. The pianos came in at the beginning, [sings the beat] and everybody was looking around, like, “What was that?” I even was like, “What the hell is that?” as many times as I had heard it in the studio while we recorded it, sequenced it, mixed it, mastered it, whatever. Once I heard it then, I went back home and I was like, “Tip, Ali—that’s the one.” They already came to me and said yeah, “Award Tour” is the one. So we all agreed and put it out there, and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s always a killer in the shows.
Song: “Scenario (Remix)”
Album: Originally a B-Side, later appeared on The Love Movement
Kid Hood—may he rest in peace—he was about to eat, I promise you. And then, unfortunately, he got killed. I don’t even like thinking about that—it was just a few days after he recorded it that he got killed. Everybody was excited off of just those sixteen bars. We was like, “Yo, yo, yo, we about to put this kid out!” Q-Tip was gung-ho, he was ready to rock with him. And then all of a sudden his life got cut short, unfortunately. But the verse he laid was definitely memorable. And of course, Busta always does his thing too. The original “Scenario” should be on this list as well.
Song: “Find A Way”
Album: The Love Movement
J. Dilla is just the king of the beats. “Find A Way” is definitely one of my favorite records. It’s very reminiscent of “Electric Relaxation” for me; the melody is so laid back, and—I don’t want to call it soft—but it has a smooth, jazzy, R&B feel to it. But once that beat hits, it’s definitely hip-hop, you can’t deny it. You fuse all that together and you’re definitely going to have a treat. I’m tryna remember how that worked—[Dilla] used to come out to New York sometimes, but “Find A Way” is on Love Movement, so he just sent that beat. And Tip played it for us and we were just like, “Ohhhhh, shit. This shit is crazy.” So we just went in on it, put our raps together and went in on it. I knew from Jump Street that was gonna be the first single. Everybody didn’t agree—the label, the Late Chris Lighty, Barry Weiss—everyone was just like, “Y’all should do this, I think you should do this,” and we were like, “Nah, we wanna do this.” Me and Tip were the only ones like, “No, ‘Find A Way’! What are you talking about?”