Ranking A Tribe Called Quest’s Albums: A Tribe Called Quest is one of the most influential and most lauded acts in Hip Hop EVER. After the Jungle Brothers in 1988 and De La Soul in 1989, A Tribe Called Quest was the next Native Tongues act to blow up and leave their inextinguishable mark on music in general and Hip Hop in particular. Being dubbed alternative/jazz rap, ATCQ and the rest of the Native Tongues clique quickly carved out their own niche in Hip Hop, and they would continue to be a breath of fresh air and a bastion of creativity and innovativeness in a Hip Hop world that would get more and more dominated with mindless cliches by gun-toting gangsta poseurs.
From their debut People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm in 1990 to their surprising (released after Phife Dawg’s untimely death) sixth and last album We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service in 2016, ATCQ’s legacy is iconic and they will forever be considered part of Hip Hop’s elite. For this list, we have ranked Tribe’s albums. Agree? Disagree? Discuss!
6. The Love Movement (1998)
Like A Tribe Called Quest‘s fourth effort Beats, Rhymes & Life, this fifth Tribe album is kind of underappreciated. Sure, it’s nowhere near the epicness of their absolute classics The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders, there are a few tracks that do not quite work, and the chemistry between Tip & Phife seems absent at times – but despite all that The Love Movement is a smooth and fine listen from one of Hip Hop’s greatest groups ever. 7/10
5. Beats Rhymes & Life (1996)
After their classic debut and super classic second and third album, ATCQ returned with Beats, Rhymes & Life. A bit darker sounding than their earlier efforts, it is an excellent album by all means.
It may feel a little less like a ‘true’ Tribe album, because there are more guest appearances than in the past (the album could have done with less of guest rapper Consequence) and because a part of the production is handled by the legendary J Dilla – who brings his own distinct flavor to the table. With all that being said – Beats, Rhymes & Life is a dope album whichever way you look at it and a worthy part of Tribe’s classic body of work. 7.5/10
4. We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)
Energized by a one-off performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on November 13, 2015, the ATCQ group members decided to record a new album in secrecy – their first since 1998’s The Love Movement. Despite Phife’s untimely death, the album was completed, with Phife’s recorded bars flawlessly integrated into what turned out to be a near-perfect final album.
The album features all four of the group’s members (Jarobi makes a comeback and even spits some bars!) plus a host of guests — André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Jack White, Anderson .Paak, Talib Kweli, and Consequence and Busta Rhymes, two longtime Tribe collaborators.
The result is a phenomenal album with that classic Tribe vibe but set firmly in this era at the same time. We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service certainly is one of the best albums of 2016 and a more than worthy addition to Tribe’s monumental catalog. 8.5/10
3. People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm (1990)
The third part of the Native Tongues triple classic album introduction to the world (the first two being the Jungle Brothers‘ Straight Out The Jungle and De La Soul‘s 3 Feet High And Rising) – People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm introduces us to A Tribe Called Quest.
People’s… is a musical masterpiece. An innovative fusion of hard beats and jazzy samples, combined with fun, clever and positive lyrics – mainly from Q-Tip (Phife was still finding his voice here and his lyrical skills would improve significantly on Tribe’s follow up The Low End Theory).
“I Left My Wallet In El Segundo”, “Can I Kick It”, the cheeky ode to female beauty “Bonita Applebum”, “Push It Along”, “Luck Of Lucien” – the album is filled with timeless joints. This album – along with the number one and two on this list, should have a place in any self-respecting music lover’s record collection. 9/10
2. Midnight Marauders (1993)
Almost a toss-up for the number one spot on this list, that is how good this album is. Faced with the impossible task of following up on the flawless masterpiece that is The Low End Theory, Tribe delivered an album that is every bit as awesome as its predecessor. There can be no greater praise.
Midnight Marauders sounds as fresh today as it did on the day it was released: the mark of a true classic. The three singles, “Award Tour”, “Electric Relaxation” and “Oh My God” may be the best-known joints on the album, but the rest is just as good – there are no weaker tracks on Midnight Marauders, not a single one. An incredible achievement, especially knowing they did the same thing on their preceding album, making it two perfect albums in a row.
In the words of Tribe’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad: “We decided to call the album Midnight Marauders because A Tribe Called Quest are like sound thieves looting your ears.” That sounds about right. 10/10
1. The Low End Theory (1991)
PERFECTION. The Low End Theory is the definitive statement about what creativity, innovation, artistry, fun, and raw talent can produce. Building on the quality work of their debut, Tribe perfected the fusion of jazzy influences and bass-heavy Hip Hop beats. The album is so coherent and consistent, it almost feels like one long song – in this case, a good thing.
Phife, who only played a small part on the first album, really increased his skills as an emcee and establishes a perfect interplay with the exceptional-as-always Q-Tip. Clever lyrics and smooth and warm music all the way through – from the hypnotizing opening track “Excursions” to the album closer and ultimate posse cut “Scenario” – this album is nothing short of perfect. 10/10