photo & text by nacrowe
i should state first off that A TRIBE CALLED QUEST is in all likelihood my favorite HIP HOP group of all time. just wanted to inform you of where my biases lie.
as ive stated before i first really became acquainted with HIP HOP during my formative middle school years living abroad in NIGERIA in the mid 90s. though my classmates i was aware of TUPAC, CYPRESS HILL, SNOOP DOGG, THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G., N.W.A. and WU-TANG CLAN among others. it wasn't until a few years later in high school when i was attending a boarding school in MASSACHUSETTS that i was introduced to A TRIBE CALLED QUEST. for me there was a humor, an intelligence and a sense of sonic and lyrical craftsmanship that sold me not only on the group, but the genre as a whole. Q-TIP and PHIFE DOG were my gateway drug of sorts. through them i became doubly interested with new ears to the aforementioned groups as well as others like MOBB DEEP, PUBLIC ENEMY, DE LA SOUL, OUTKAST, SOULS OF MISCHIEF, NAS, BLACK SHEEP, RAKIM, GANG STARR, JAY-Z, UGK and future MCs like J COLE, EMINEM, A$AP ROCKY and EL-P.
for this reason i find HANIF ABDURRAQIB's examination of the musical and cultural legacy of 90s HIP HOP in his book GO AHEAD IN THE RAIN: NOTES TO A TRIBE CALLED QUEST (UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS PRESS, 2019) through the vehicle of this seminal group particularly compelling, as they were emblematic of the higher aspirations of the greater scene. by that i mean they were sponges that celebrated their peers and black culture in general irrespective of geography.
author ABDURRAQIB makes no bones about his personal connection to the TRIBE narrative, often intertwining his lived experience as a midwestern black muslim with their music as a soundtrack. it is not a biography by any means, but more an extended appreciation for one fan's perspective of their contributions HIP HOP culture, warts and all. he definitely covers lots of aspects of their worldview and discography, but perhaps my favorite part of this books was his letter to the mother PHIFE DAWG, a fellow poet. he makes the connection that her experience as a TRINIDADIAN immigrant and the cadences of her native patois had an influence on both her use of rhythm in her poetry as well as that of her son's lyrics. seemed touching and poignant.
i can't really do this book justice as it is incredibly well-written and touches on topics like music production, pan-africanism, friendship, brotherhood, pride and family. well worth reading if you get the opportunity or share a love for this seminal EAST COAST HIP HOP group as i do.