DAR Hip Hop: Ranking A Tribe Called Quest's Albums

By @TrueGodImmortal 

The legendary group A Tribe Called Quest is still going strong in hip hop. After making a triumphant return following a near 20 year hiatus, the group is back in effect with a slightly altered roster. After the untimely passing of Phife Dawg, Q-Tip, Ali, and Jarobi brought in longtime associates Busta Rhymes and Consequence to fill the void. Although Phife would be present on the group's return album, his absence for performances and tours would be felt immensely. It made many of us look back to their catalog prior and the heyday of Tribe. From their debut to their solo endeavors, Tribe has kept a level of consistency up over 3 decades in hip hop. Today, we wanted to look at the albums in the discography (including the solo albums from Phife and Q-Tip, along with the one hard to find album from Ali Shaheed Muhammad) and rank them all. Are some of Q-Tip's solos better than the Tribe albums? Did Phife make a great album with his one and only solo (he has another releasing posthumously)? Which is better between The Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders? Was Beats, Rhymes, and Life really disappointing? Read on to find out. Let's get into it.

11. Ali Shaheed Muhammad- Shaheedullah and Stereotypes (2004)

-Usually, when an album goes out of print, it's impossible to find. Thankfully, for the sake of this article, I was able to find some of the music from this album and I wasn't impressed nor disappointed by it. I don't think Ali is a great rapper and I feel he's better suited on be production end, but this album suffers in both the rap area and the production area at times. I did enjoy a few songs here, and with Stokely from Mint Condition  making appearances, there is a bit of soulful vocals to help offset the verses.

Top 3 Songs 
"Put Me On"
"Part Of The Night"

10. Phife Dawg- Ventilation: Da LP (2000)

-I was always curious how a Phife solo would sound and when I heard the finished product, I felt indifferent. The production is solid, as Dilla, Rick Rock and Hi-Tek helped provide a soundbed that allows Phife to spit some of his best, but my issue with the album in general is the subject matter. Much like the Q-Tip album, Phife took a simple approach and it comes back to haunt him at times. The singles from the album are evidence of that, but I'd have loved to hear slightly better features. Regardless, the album could be much worse than it is, and it still enjoyable but just missed the mark as many times as it connected.

Top 3 Songs 
"Alphabet Soup"
"Lemme Find Out"
"Beats, Rhymes, and Phife"

9. Q-Tip- Amplified (1999)

-I really enjoyed this album when it first dropped. While the production was solid, the lyrics and the songs themselves don't age very well and that's what it has the album lower on the list than it would have been perhaps a few years ago. The singles are known and classic in a way, but the album tracks are really where Tip shines a bit more. However, my criticism of this album comes mostly in the subject matter. It's very light and though that can be appreciated, something was just off about this album when considering replay value. Still, the Jay Dee/Dilla production was solid throughout and despite the more simplistic rhymes from Tip this time out (deliberately), a number of songs here flowed very well. It's a good album in retrospect, just not necessarily good enough.

Top 3 Songs 
"Breathe And Stop"
"Vivrant Thing"

8. Q-Tip- Kamaal The Abstract (2002/2009)

-I like this album better than Amplified. Yes. I said it. It's a fusion of jazz, hip hop, funk and even some rock, but what makes this enjoyable is that it feels like Tip and his evolution trying to come full circle. He's no longer just the wordsmith who can spit verses, he can harmonize, dabble in jazz, keep the rhythms funky and most of all, the short tracklist flows very well. Originally scheduled for release in 2002, it wasn't officially released until 2009, which is a testament to how good the music was, because 7 years after the intended release date, it still sounded fresh. A mark of a solid project, though there are small areas for improvement here.

Top 3 Songs 
"Do You Dig U"
"Blue Girl"

7. A Tribe Called Quest- The Love Movement (1998)

-I think this is the "worst" Tribe group album personally, and it's not even a bad record by any stretch. There are some great moments, some very solid production, and really dope songs here. This was at a time when the sound of hip hop was evolving and I think this album was met with less than high marks from critics due to the fact that people wanted that old Tribe sound completely. The group was evolving and their last two albums are prime examples of that. The Jay Dee production actually was a step up from the standard Ali Shaheed production of the past, the only thing that falters here is how some of the songs are executed. With solid guest appearances from Busts Rhymes, Redman, Jane Doe, Mos Def, and more, the album has a great supporting cast, and the vibe is much more jovial than the one we saw on Beats, Rhymes, and Life. While not a classic, I still find this album a good listen, with only a few small miscues.

Top 3 Songs 
"Find A Way"
"Steppin It Up"
"Rock Rock Y'all"

6. A Tribe Called Quest- Beats, Rhymes, and Life (1996)

-This album is unjustly hated by many Tribe fans and hip hop "heads". Why? I don't know. I honestly think this album is a near classic and I really enjoyed it. Sure, it's a lot darker than previous releases, but life strikes at any moment and after a 3 year layoff from a classic album, I think this was a really good release. My favorite song is one of the singles, "Stressed Out", and I think Faith Evans really delivered the right hook and vibe. Consequence showed up on the verse he had and overall, the song just flowed well to me. I loved the slightly darker vibe of the album and I think the addition of production from Jay Dee was a needed element. Overall, I really enjoyed the album and I think it should be given more credit.

Top 3 Songs 
"Stressed Out"
"Phony Rappers"

5. A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It From Here... Thank You For Your Service (2016)

-I love this album and think it's tied for the best album in hip hop for 2016 with Common and his Black America Again project (and also After The Revival, but I digress). Still, I really enjoyed the album and the sound, even without Phife being present on the whole thing. Phife makes a good amount of appearances however and his verses are always enjoyable. The same could be said for Consequence and Busta Rhymes who help to fill the void left by Phife on certain songs. Anderson Paak and Kendrick Lamar have guest appearances on this album, as does Andre 3000, rounding out a very very solid album, one that could very well drift over into the classic category as time goes on. For now, I'll rank it a 9/10, but all in all, it was a supremely solid album and their best since Midnight Marauders.

Top 3 Songs
"Conrad Tokyo"
"The Space Program"
"Solid Wall Of Sound"

4. Q-Tip- The Renaissance (2008)

-This album is a classic to me. I didn't think Q-Tip had it in him to make a solo classic, but he proved me wrong. From the guest appearances of D'Angelo and Raphael Saadiq to the layered and lush samples on every beat, Tip really crafted an album that was light years beyond what I expected to hear. This album sounded like Tribe mixed with Amplified mixed with the Kamaal Abstract vibe with a Soulquarians undertone also within it. There's not many songs, if any, that really miss the mark and I believe that this is the crowning achievement of Q-Tip's career to show his prowess and ability solo wise.

Top 3 Songs 
"Move/Renaissance Rap"
"We Fight, We Love"

3. A Tribe Called Quest- People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm (1990)

-The debut from this group is one of my favorite all time albums and the most slept on in their catalog. Some people don't like this album as much, but of course, they're crazy. This album is just as good as their two undisputed classics and it's a classic to me personally (and this is my list). I think there was a youthful wisdom displayed in these songs, along with the known playfulness that the group possessed shining through, and the production was jazzy and smooth yet enough boom bap to make you nod your head to the beat. Some of the tracks and the productions are iconic, and we get the full force of the group with Jarobi being present on this album. It's the humble beginnings of the jazz rap style that they popularized and it features all of the members doing what they do best. If this album isn't perfect, it is extremely close to being perfect. Word to "Youthful Expression".

Top 3 Songs 
"Can I Kick It Out"
"Bonita Applebum"
"Luck of Lucien"

2. A Tribe Called Quest- The Low End Theory (1991)

-I have a hard time choosing between these two albums. I really do. Low End was my favorite during my teenage years, as I went back and revisited the album and loved it, but now a decade or so later, I'm slightly partial to the album they released after Low End. Picking between those two albums really leaves you with no wrong answer and if you had Low End at no. 1, I couldn't blame you. The jazzy production is taken up a notch here on this album, and the songs just seamlessly flow from a lyrical standpoint and chemistry standpoint between Phife and Q-Tip. Everything about this album works well and once again, if this is your no. 1, I couldn't dispute that.

Top 3 Songs 
"Check The Rhime"
"Jazz (We've Got)"

1. A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders (1993)

-The greatest Tribe album is the one that I can't help but revisit monthly. Midnight Marauders is iconic from the cover to the production to the lyrics and everything else surrounding it. It felt like the culmination of a crazy three album journey for the group where they were having a victory lap and greatness just came out effortlessly. From the epic "Award Tour" to the very smooth "Electric Relaxation" all the way down to the Busta Rhymes assisted "Oh My God", Midnight Marauders is not only a hip hop classic and the best Tribe album, it is in the running as one of the greatest hip hop albums of the 90s easily (and possibly all time). It's the album that defines the Tribe legacy the best and that's why it is no. 1 on this list.

Top 3 Songs
"Electric Relaxation"
"8 Million Stories"
"Lyrics To Go"

For Tribe, the years have blessed them with many great projects and a few missteps. I neglected to include the Jarobi and Dres duo album because it's not a solo endeavor and rather a new group per se, but make no mistake about it, Tribe can hold their own musically together or alone.



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