Shirts, Rhymes, & Life

Buckle up. We’re going on a journey for this one.

A Tribe Called Quest. Where do I start? For them, it started “Back in the days on the Boulevard of Linden.” For me, it started during car rides with my parents. While the now defunct station ‘Smooth Jazz WJJZ 106.1’ played on the radio. One song I remember hearing was “Mystic Brew” by Ronnie Foster:

Not long after that, I heard a track that would formally introduce me to Hip-Hop:

I was hooked instantly. The concept of taking something from the past, sampling it, and turning it into something entirely original had me looking through my Father’s vinyl collection to find the link between those songs and the ones that were popular on the radio and TV.

For years after I heard this song, I found myself trying to get any music I could from A Tribe Called Quest. Sometimes from Columbia House, sometimes from the (now defunct) Wall or any of music stores around at the time. It was a great time of musical discovery for me, until 1998 when it came to a screeching halt. That year, A Tribe Called Quest released ‘The Love Movement’. I was crushed to hear that this would be the last album they’d be releasing together.

I would never get the chance to hear them perform live together or hear any new music from them, or so I thought.

In 2008, “Rock the Bells” hosted a series of festival style concerts across the country. The lineups were incredible. Sadly, no shows were in Philadelphia, but there were shows in New York & Columbia, MD. I was moderately interested. Not long before tickets went on sale, A Tribe Called Quest was announced to be reuniting for the tour. My interest went from moderate to, “Who do I need to fight to get there?” There were some complications with the tickets, but I did manage to go to the Columbia, MD show; albeit by myself. It was one of the greatest concerts… ever. A Tribe Called Quest headlined the show, but before them, I was treated to the likes of: Rakim, Redman & Method Man, & De La Soul, just to name a few. When A Tribe Called Quest hit the stage, it was pure euphoria. I never thought that feeling would ever be paralleled. I was proven wrong.

In 2010, Rock the Bells and A Tribe Called Quest returned to Columbia, MD. This time I was able to experience the show with three of my best friends. A Tribe Called Quest went through a whole 18 song set list, complete with a cameo by the Busta Rhymes for “Scenario“. After the borderline mosh pit that formed in the crowd cleared, we were drenched in sweat, but stuck with the hugest grins on our faces.

It wasn’t until watching the Documentary “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest“, that the reasons why the group originally separated and the upsetting reason they reunited to tour together were detailed. Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor was suffering from Diabetes complications and required a kidney transplant. In order to finance the medical procedures for Phife, the group agreed to tour again.

Earlier this year, I was devastated to hear the news that Phife succumbed to those complications at the age of 45. In his memory, Linden Boulevard had a corner posthumously named “Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Way”in his honor.

If you watch the Beats, Rhymes & Life documentary all the way through, one of the last things it mentions is that A Tribe Called Quest still had 1 album left on their record deal. I dismissed it initially, as I assumed any new music production for the group ceased back in 1998. However, I just came across an article this week stating that not only did they secretly record an album together before Phife’s passing, but also that it’s “coming soon”. If true, this would be the first album released by the group in 18 years.

I’ll be saving my spot in line at the Record Store for whenever that album drops.

1nce Again, this is the Cool Shirt Guy…

Signing off.


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