A Tribe Called Quest honored fallen group member Phife Dawg last night in their first ever performance on Saturday Night Live.
Formed in 1985, the Queens, New York hip-hop group was lead by two unquestionable frontmen Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, with Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White taking complimentary roles. A Tribe Called Quest was regarded as the leader of the Native Tongues, a hip-hop collective during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that used positive, Afrocentric lyrics and jazz-inspired beats. This movement also included De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers. Quest covered themes of love, struggle, social issues, and everyday life with their lyrics, all while blending hip-hop, jazz, and bohemian sounds. This unique style cemented Quest as hip-hop royalty for being one of the first alternative hip-hop groups.
Quest began their ascent to hip-hop stardom in a scene that was largely dominated by tensions and conflict arising from an industry-wide West Coast, East Coast beef. The light-hearted sound from A Tribe Called Quest was a break from the serious music being made by other hip-hop artists wrapped up in a rivalry.
Quest released their first album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm in 1990 with such classics as “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo,” “Can I Kick It,” and “Bonita Applebum.” The album was met with critical acclaim but not mainstream success, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm went gold six years after it’s release. The unique, inventive sound on Quest’s first album became a staple of their music and it earned them a massive following.
A Tribe Called Quest continued their brand of alternative hip-hop throughout the 1990’s, releasing four more albums after People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Three of Quest’s next four albums went platinum, while one went gold. By the end of the 1990’s, A Tribe Called Quest broke up due to an increasingly strained group dynamic. The members of Quest moved on to solo projects in the following years.
After a long hiatus, the group reconvened to perform a live show for the 25th anniversary of their first album. After this performance, Quest began working on their first album together in almost two decades.
While Quest was in the process of making new music and mending relationships, frontman Phife Dawg tragically passed away from completions related to type 2 diabetes on March 22 2016.
Phife Dawg’s death came as a shock to the hip-hop community. Fans from all over the world mourned Phife Dawg’s death on social media along with those in the music industry who praised Phife’s personality and lyrical prowess.
Quest’s sixth studio album We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service was released November 11 with contributions from Phife Dawg. We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service also has features from Andrè 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, Elton John, Kanye West, Anderson Paak, Talib Kweli, Consequence, and Busta Rhymes, as reported by The Guardian.
Quest made their first ever appearance on Saturday Night Live last night while performing two songs off of their new album. During a show that was already filled with political commentary, Quest was introduced by host Dave Chappelle before performing their first song “We The People.” Forever a socially conscious group, “We The People” deals with racism, xenophobia, and hate. A large banner displaying Phife Dawg unfurled on stage during his verse, Q-Tip and Jarobi held their microphones up to the banner as Phife’s voice echoed through the speakers. Quest then played “The Space Program” with Consequence and Busta Rhymes coming on stage. The song ended with an emotional hug from everyone on stage.
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