Let’s face it, around these parts, A Tribe Called Quest changed many of our lives. Their catalog comprises classic album after classic album; the most infectious, groundbreaking beats and rhymes–even ’til this day. Those of us invested in the group have also heard the stories of a dysfunctional family and seen Rapaport’s documentary–but none of that changes anything about how we feel about the music this group of guys gave to us, which we hold (and seek to protect) so dearly.
With all of that weighing on my mind I made my way over to Barclays Center in Brooklyn early, knowing the production was on a strict schedule and ATCQ would hit at 7:45pm. Not surprisingly, nearly half of the arena had yet to show up by the time the group started making their intros. A video montage of now classic footage of the band discussing earlier shows being their last was cheekily spliced with even more classic introductions by late night hosts from over the years. And then, one by one, to the oh-so-familiar soundbed “Tribe Called Quest consists of four members: Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Q-Tip and Jarobi. A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y,” our heroes emerged.
Yesterday was Phife’s 43rd birthday. He appeared to be moving more slowly (presumably due to his diabetes) than Tip (who was full of his typical extreme high energy) and Jarobi, but still stirred up the half filled arena as they group launched into “Steve Biko.” “A Tribe Called Quest represent, zent zent, uh huh, here we go!” … and the reality of the situation started to sink in.
Following “The Chase,” a song that clearly informed the early Roots sound, came classics “Oh My God,” “Buggin Out,” and “Excursions.” Q-Tip’s ferocious energy throughout is turnt to 100 thousand trillion and this especially comes out for “Excursions.” Jarobi seemed to really anchor the three emcees as Phife would often fall far back. As much as Jarobi’s contributions on the discography are more marginal than the rest, you can really see how important he is to the group’s dynamics.
I feel silly saying they played classics. I mean… “Sucka N*gga,” “Find A Way” (Dilla dilla, beats beats) and “Bonita Applebum”… I don’t think there is such a thing as a non-classic Tribe tune! For “Bonita,” a full bodied Stephanie Santiago painted head to toe in red, black, and green stripes ala the iconic Low End Theory artwork, mesmerized the crowd as she walked to the center of the arena holding a cut-out apple with “38-24-37” written on the reverse side.
The group headed into the final stretch with epic tunes “Electric Relaxation” and of course “Scenario” where Busta Rhymes rushed the stage (like a dungeon dragon) but unfortunately his mic was off for much of his verse and it didn’t have the affect we all know it can (watch the video here).
ATCQ finished up the show with “Can I Kick It,” “Check the Rhime,” and a fierce “Award Tour” that saw Ali pulling up the song twice and Tip jumping into the audience to help bring the rafters down when the beat dropped.
And with what seemed like a blink of an eye, they were off the stage. Throughout the lead up to the show, during, and after, I heard people feeling upset that A Tribe Called Quest was opening for Kanye West, considering their God-like status in the hip-hop canon. But it’s Kanye’s tour, and his show, and he wants the group that inspired him to join in the celebration of music and art that ‘Ye constantly champions. I can almost guarantee you Yeezy essentially surrendered any earnings of his own from these shows (and more) to book Tribe. He empowered them to perform together again, which allowed people like me to relive some of the very essence of what has made music so important in our lives, the unparalleled feeling that you get from A Tribe Called Quest. You’ll get one last shot at that feeling this Sunday Novemeber 24th, when lightning strikes a second time for the Yeezus/Tribe show at Madison Square Garden. In the meantime, watch our “The Questions” video interview with Jarobi from yesterday cop your A Tribe Called Quest merchandise in the Okayplayer shop (a “Can I Kick It” tee from the OKP store – 30$. Rocking it at the last ATCQ show ever – priceless.