Why the hell should I like… ?” is an experiment of sorts between Popblerd and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. What we’re going to attempt to do is to pick 10 songs from our favorite artists — one for which the other has professed dislike or disinterest — and show them why they’re wrong.
I know it’s probably hard to believe, but I didn’t listen to a lot of hip hop growing up. I know, it’s nuts right? Sure I had a copy of Raising Hell on cassette, but who didn’t? Run-D.M.C. crossed all boundaries back in the day. But other than that, I really didn’t hear much hip hop other than what I might’ve caught on MTV while trying to avoid more crappy hair metal.
But in recent years I’ve been trying to right that wrong, and so acts like Kanye West, the Roots, Digable Planets, and De La Soul have made their way into my playlist (seriously, how awesome is Blowout Comb?). But one group I never gave much thought to was A Tribe Called Quest, and now thanks to Blerd’s 10-track playlist I have righted yet another wrong.
The first track Blerd picked — “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” — was a perfect choice. It showcases how Tribe had a great sense of humor but never crossed the line into jokey or novelty territory. And the beat and those exotic samples are undeniable! Same for “Bonita Applebum,” which showcases a more R&B/jazz-influenced groove. Hell, any group that samples Cannonball Adderley is OK by me.
I can say why Tribe gets pigeonholed as a “jazz rap” act, but I find that to be a plus to be honest. I think a lot of hip hop acts miss the boat by just drawing from R&B or soul. There’s a vibe permeating tracks like “Jazz (We’ve Got),” “8 Million Stories,” and “Electric Relaxation” that totally speaks to me. Those tracks put me in mind of a lot of the nu jazz and downbeat I listen to — artists like Koop, Jazzanova, and [re:jazz]. Very nice. If there is a negative on some of this music, it’s that a lot of it sounds firmly rooted in the late ’80s/early ’90s, which make sense of course. It’s not necessarily dated, but not exactly timeless either.
The main thing I like about these 10 tracks is that there is a common vision running through all of them (largely influenced by Q-Tip I imagine), but Tribe delivers a lot of different sounds and moods. “Midnight” sounds vaguely sinister, like walking down a dark city alley at a bad time of night, while “Electric Relaxation” (from the same album, Midnight Marauders) feels like cruising around on a summer night with the top down (or in the case of my shitty Corolla, the windows down).
So that leaves us with the last two songs, both from Q-Tip’s second solo LP, The Renaissance. I appreciate Tip’s willingness to take risks, but I just don’t think I can hang with hearing Norah Jones on a hip hop song (“Life Is Better”). The D’Angelo collaboration (“Believe”) sounds a lot more natural and organic. But in both cases the music is phenomenal, and if I read the credits on Wikipedia correctly the songs also feature Marc Cary — one of the great young jazz pianists around — on keyboards. Love that bass sound too.
Yeah, I think you can call me a Tribe fan now. I don’t know if I will ever love them as much as Blerd, but they’re firmly entrenched in my rotation now. Chalk up a win my man!
- Why The Hell Should I Like… A Tribe Called Quest? (grayflannelsuit.net)
- ‘Tribe Called Quest’ Documentary Heads To DVD In October (moviesblog.mtv.com)
- Blerd Briefs: A De La/Roots Collabo? Doughty Goes Underground, Van Hunt is Back & Who Shot ‘Pac? (popblerd.com)
- Why the Hell Should I Like… post-‘Thriller’ Michael Jackson? (The Rebuttal) (popblerd.com)
- Sunday Jazz: The incredible Wes Montgomery (grayflannelsuit.net)