Harry Allen Offers Up Some Fresh "Liner Notes" To ATCQ's 'People's Instinctive Travels...' LP
A Tribe Called Quest‘s classic debut LP People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm means something specific to every hip-hop fan. Whether you first heard songs like “Bonita Applebum” and “Footprints” blasting out of a Manhattan boombox, or are young enough to discover its greatness through Youtube and Spotify, the details of its composition and flat-out exuberant attitude. And as with any classic LP, everyone’s got their take, and now in a new essay on Medium, storied music journalist Harry Allen has offered up his own perspective.
“It’s been virtually a given,” Allen leads, “since its release in 1990, that People’s Instinctive Travels is a celebration of bohemia, psychedelia, and vagabondia; the auditory analog to Burning Man; the definitive prototype for what, in hip-hop, eventually became a slur: backpack rap.” As the piece continues, Allen offers up People’s Instinctive… as a something more than just a buoyant party record, but in fact much more invested in the harsh issues of 1970s urban life. It’s all there in delicate India ink,” he asserts. “Asphalt, concrete, aerosol art, brownstones, storefronts, and even a gothic structure that looks a lot like the former First Dutch Reformed Church, now the Performing Arts Center, in Tribe’s hometown, Jamaica, Queens.”
The entire essay draws on direct quotes from ATCQ members and ultimately uncovers the record as one that many look back on as “the first time they heard the album a personal, life turning point.” There’s so much to be gained in reading Allen’s extended look at the record, and you can read it all here.