You on point, Phife?
You probably know why I'm posting this. Recently, at the far too young age of 45, Phife Dawg, member of the legendary hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, passed away. Well, it wasn't too recently, but Easter etc has kept me busy. Plus, it's very hard to approach something like this. The weight of someone's cultural legacy, their artistic achievements, is especially heavy in the days after their death, when everyone is eager to relive the entire career. It's bittersweet: the moment when you confront that there will be nothing more is the moment where you realize all that you got, and how lucky you were to get it.
Instead of trying to say anything about the legacy of A Tribe Called Quest, all I can do is look at this one song. No, even that is too much: all I can do is point to that moment at the start, when you get that staggered sample and that tight applause loop, it has the same urgency I talked about with Gone, you just want to get immersed in the flows, to bring the beat to fruition. It's the aural equivalent of one toe in the hot tub. And then the legendary call and response, establishing immediately that wonderful balance of pleasant casualness and effortless mastery, simply "on point", like when you're just playing friendlies but absolutely everything is working. You bust their shit.
When it comes to the meaning of ATCQ to hip hop in general, there are many others who could tell the story better than me. Like people who were older than 5 when this record came out, maybe. But there's certain facts that permeate easily into the next generation, that were somehow known to me even in my Eminem-only "(c)rap mirite??" phase, the less of which we hear about the better. Like that even if I was totally hatefully ignorant of modern rap, there was a time before this, when things were better. That it was the golden age. And that you couldn't talk about it without mentioning A Tribe Called Quest. On point, again and again, now and forever.