Rewind: A Tribe Called Quest’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

Rewind: A Tribe Called Quest’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

With TIDAL Rewind, we blow the dust off an old album that’s begging to be heard again. Here we look back at A Tribe Called Quest’s masterful debut, ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm’, which was just reissued in light of it’s 25th anniversary. 

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What is People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm?

Released on April 10, 1990, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is the debut album from Queens-bred hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest – composed of MC Q-Tip, MC Phife Dawg and DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad. It’s  also the only Tribe record to feature fourth member Jarobi White.

The album helped establish the group as the defining alternative hip-hop group of the ’90s and the most successful act of the Native Tongues Posse – noted for their conscious, Afrocentric lyrics and eclectic, jazz-heavy sampling style – which also included De La Soul and Jungle Brothers.

Celebrating this hip-hop milestone’s quarter-century anniversary, the brand new reissue includes bonus remixes from Cee-Lo Green, Pharrell Williams and J Cole.

What does it sound like?

People’s Instinctive Travels was well-acclaimed by critics, though not initially successful in sales. The overall feel is more goofy and playful than subsequent efforts, such as the more focused The Low End Theory (1991) and the confident Midnight Marauders (1993), as well as featuring less of the jazzy production they became known for.

All the same, People’s Instinctive Travels is a true classic, capturing the call and response chemistry between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, and containing some the groups most beloved tracks, including the trifecta singles “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” “Bonita Applebum” and “Can I Kick It?”

Typifying the rich and pioneering Native Tongues approach, the album takes samples from a wide-range of sources (Jimi Hendrix, Weather Report, Little Feat, Richard Pryor) including recognizable clips from  The Beatles (“Luck of Lucien”), Stevie Wonder (“Footprints”) and of course Lou Reed (“Can I Kick It?”), whose prominently reduxed “Walk on the Wild Side” is one of the most beloved samples in the history of hip-hop.

In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Phife Dawg recently revealed that in order for Reed to clear the sample for “Can I Kick It?,” the legendary New York rocker shrewdly took 100 percent of the royalties and publishing.

“I remember with [record label] Jive, there was a problem with the sample being cleared,” Phife recalls. “I don’t think they cleared the sample, and instead of Lou Reed saying, ‘You can’t use it,’ he said, ‘Y’all can use it, but I get all the money from that… to this day, we haven’t seen a dime from that song.”

Why should I care?

In their brief, brilliant run, A Tribe Called Quest earned an unquestioned status as the alternative hip-hop act of the ’90s, paving the way for countless artists to come after them and leaving behind a timeless trove of classic, feel-good hip-hop.

AllMusic’s John Bush called them “the most intelligent, artistic rap group during the 1990s.” They’ve been specially recognized by Billboard and VH1 for their contributions to music, and their songs and albums (particularly The Low End Theory) repeatedly end up on best of lists for the decade and beyond.

Where do I hear more?

On equal or greater standing with A Tribe Called Quest’s wonderful debut are the aforementioned follow-ups The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders. The trio’s last two albums, Beats, Rhymes and Life (1996) and The Love Movement (1998), also offer a great deal of goodness.

Since their 1998 split, Q-Tip has released three solo albums, and along with numerous featured appearances and production work. His long-in-the-works fourth LP, The Last Zulu, is expected to drop before the end of 2015 and it’s rumored to include featured spots from Beck, Fiona Apple and Kanye West.

Beyond their Native Tongues cohorts, De La Soul and Jungle Brothers, there’s a perennial flow of positive-minded hip-hop from both conscious rappers like Mos Def, Fugees and Common, and mainstream stars like 2Pac, Nas and Eminem.

Similarly, there’s a grand and perennial tradition of fusing hip-hop with jazz samples and live instrumentation, stretching from the days of Eric B. & Rakim, Slum Village, The Pharcyde and Guru’s Jazzmatazz to contemporary uses by the likes of Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar.

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