July 30, 2015

A Tribe Called Quest "Beats, Rhymes & Life" (CMJ, 9/96)

A Tribe Called Quest is representing the future of its fourth, bottom-heavy release, Beats, Rhymes And Life. At a time when rap is plagued with studio gangsters, drugs, guns and predictable aural stimulants, ATCQ promotes responsibility, individuality and the need for rappers to break out of tired, self-defeating habits. Over its career, ATCQ has smartly exempted itself from the pitfalls of the rap business, and on Beats, it offers the knowledge it's gathered in a smart, powerful package that is motivating, inspiring and even compassionate ("Stressed Out"). As demonstrated on "1nce Again" and "What Really Goes On?," the trio has nearly perfected its amalgam sublime, jazzy samples and the kind of bass-and-beat bombs that made The Low End Theory so alluring. Combine that with the group's cerebral poetics ("Phony Rappers" and "The Pressure"), and you have one of the most focused and potentially important records in recent memory. At a time when most rappers shun the role model title, the members of ATCQ assume it for themselves and attempt to lead hip-hop down the righteous path of rhythm, while not forgetting to shake their butts along the way. - CMJ, 1996.

Album review in CMJ New Music Monthly (September, 1996)...