10 of the Best Lyrics From A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Beats, Rhymes and Life’ Album
Not many groups from the culture's golden era have earned as much adoration -- and admiration -- as the trio of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammed, better known as A Tribe Called Quest. The Linden Boulevard legends splashed onto the scene with a game-changing run of albums that took next-level, sample-based production popularized by fellow Native Tongue members De La Soul, blended with a new-age jazz-infused sound that inspired a whole new generation of artists and producers.
Their first three albums, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, the iconic The Low End Theory and the often cited Midnight Marauders earned them a cult following with singles like "Can I Kick It?," "Scenario," "Electric Relaxation," "Check the Rhime," and "Award Tour." For their fourth album, Beats, Rhymes and Life, the trio are celebrating their 20th anniversary on July 30.
The 15-song album was both a departure and turning point for the group in many ways. For one, it had an arguably darker sound than the albums that preceded it. It was produced primarily by The Ummah, a newly formed production trio of Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and the late J Dilla. The new direction introduced a more laid-back polished sound compared to the group's earlier material. Secondly, on top of being successful sales-wise -- as it was certified platinum by 1998 -- it was more commercially lauded, earning multiple Grammy nods including Album of the Year.
More unfortunately, though, the album marked the beginning of the end for the group. During the time when the album was created, Tip and Ali had converted to Islam, while Phife did not. As well, the album introduced rapper/writer Consequence, who is Q-Tip's cousin, into the fold without much introduction or context. As Phife described, he began to feel as though there was increasingly less of a place for him in the group -- sessions were frequently booked and canceled last minute and Tip had begun to further distinguish himself as the group's leader. Consequence was featured on more than half of the album and even replaced Phife on the album version of the second single, "Stressed Out," featuring Faith Evans. The dynamics shift was hard to conceal, and it was becoming clear that things were not the same as they once were.
By the time the group's fifth and final album came around, it was evident that Tribe had come to the end of the road, losing a good amount of the original spark that made them so successful. Tip and Phife went on to release solo efforts and Ali Shaheed worked on multiple projects, including Lucy Pearl.
The group did reunite years later, performing a handful of concerts and working closely with Michael Rapport for his documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest in 2011. Unfortunately, though, amidst rumors that the trio was working on a sixth release earlier this year, after all this time, Phife passed away due to complications from diabetes.
Beats, Rhymes and Life was undoubtedly a strong addition to their iconic catalog and a revered piece of golden era audio history. As we celebrate 20 years since the album dropped, we here at XXL have compiled a list of the top 10 lines from the project.
Shaming Wack Rappers
"He said a rhyme about his .45 and his nickel bags of weed /That's when I proceeded to give him what he needed /Talking bout" I need a Philly right before I get loose "/Poor excuse, money please, I get loose off of orange juice."
--Phife, "Phoney Rapper"
A Message to Those Who Follow Them a Little Too Close
"Sometimes, I mean we rhyme, damn, we ain't prophets /And if you think so, you need to stop it /So jump back inside your shell /Let your million dollar thoughts propel but next man don't get gel /Playa hate that all carries weight that we don't need /We slim with disabilities and thick with possibilities."
--Q-Tip, "Get a Hold"
Phife Kicks a Freestyle Flow
"This here groove was made for vintage freestyling /Feeling like I'm chilling on a Caribbean island /Rugged raw material is what we bring forth/ A Tribe Called Quest, we representing up North."
Q-Tip Breaks Down Street Drama
"Your whole being, comes from greatness, you'd remember /Shatan got you caught in the storms of December /And brothers on the block packing nines like September /Crazy situations keeps pockets on slender."
--Q-Tip, "Stressed Out"
Phife Shines Through With a Classic Verse
"Now every dog has his day, but eff that, it's my year /All you gat pullin' MC's could never come near /All that bogus type chatter, please put it to rest /It's the Phifer from Quest leavin' venues a mess."
--Phife, "The Pressure"
Phife Addresses Writer's Block
"My shit is lovely simply meaning that my joint is tight /Amping up the mic making sure production's tight /Sometimes I might catch a severe case of writer's block/ But by the end of the day you'll be on my jock."
--Phife, "1nce Again"
Tip Drops Knowledge of Self
"Your new lesson is to realize the mission when you hear it /Emceein, see I got this in my spirit/ I got verses like Mahalia singin church hymns/ So strap up because you skatin on ice that's wild thin."
--Q-Tip, "Mind Power"
Phife Dawg Returns to His Roots
"I'll have your brain goin in circles as my style tends to ovulate/ I'm makin moves, never movies, that's why y'all MCs lose me/ Retrace, won't, so your stubborn like groupies."
--Phife, "Baby Phife's Return"
Tip Addresses East Coast and West Coast Beef
"Son, we livin in a time where mad folks talk (shit)/ Representin they crews or they East-West clicks/ Let me tell everybody from coast to coast/ About the lands we boast, but we don't own jack /How the (fuck) we movin through makin moves like that?"
--Q-Tip, "What Really Goes On"
Phife Is His Own Biggest Fan
"Analyze. That's what I do to MCs /That be talkin bout they this and that, money please /Ego. I'm on my own jock skill /Cuz if I don't say I'm the best, tell me who the hell will."
--Phife, "Word Play"