A love interrupted: A Tribe Called Quest’s resilient path of rhythm | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Volume 1 Number 1
  • ISSN: 2632-6825
  • E-ISSN: 2632-6833

Abstract

In 2016, the rap group A Tribe Called Quest returned with their long-awaited sixth and final album, . Behind it was a long and turbulent story without which the record’s full significance cannot be properly understood. In this longform critical essay, hip hop scholar and critic James McNally examines that history, drawing on an extensive archive of historic interviews and visual material to illuminate the impact this pivotal group made on hip hop’s golden age. It maps the disruption in music and values created by the freewheeling collective they belonged to, the Native Tongues; in particular the new, looser, more expressive modes of Blackness and everyteen vitality they injected into hip hop’s late-1980s moral and stylistic universe. Unpacking the tropes of familiality the Native Tongues promoted, the essay is drawn in particular to the de facto sibling relationship between Tribe’s two core MCs – Malik ‘Phife’ Taylor and Kamaal ‘Q-Tip’ Fareed (born Jonathan Davis). It argues their friendship – as ultimately embodied in the sound of Tribe’s music, but also, increasingly, as public biographical knowledge – was central to the group’s appeal. Engaging with their fraternal ambivalence as well as their love, and with the group’s drawn-out implosion after 1998’s The Love Movement, the essay explores themes around masculine friendship and platonic male love, around estrangement, reconciliation and resilience, and, ultimately – following the interruption of by Taylor’s untimely death – the personal tragedy of loss. Bringing these themes together, ‘A Love Interrupted’ provides a critical reading of A Tribe Called Quest’s poignant final album.

This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND), which allows users to copy, distribute and transmit the article as long as the author is attributed, the article is not used for commercial purposes, and the work is not modified or adapted in any way. To view a copy of the licence, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
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2023-01-16
2024-02-25
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  • Article Type: Other review
Keyword(s): A Tribe Called Quest; Blackness; fugitivity; hip hop; love; masculinity; resilience
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