People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

A Tribe Called Quest produced the album “Peoples Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” in 1990. Although this album never became popular or mainstream in the US it has become more popular with time. The album contained 14 tracks that each contained socially aware song lyrics and a definite lyric rhythms. Today, I listened to this album in it’s entirety and in order that the tracks are listed. The tracks on this album include: Push it Along, Luck of Lucien, After Hours, Footprints, I Left My Wallet in el Segundo, Pubic Enemy, Bonita Applebum, Can I Kick It?, Youthful Expression, Rhythm (Devoted to the Art of Moving Butts), Mr. Muhammad, Ham ‘n’ Eggs, Go Ahead in the Rain, and Description of a Fool.

After listening to each of these songs I reflected on them individual and on the album as a whole. The first thing I noticed about the album when i completed it was that many if not all of the songs were structured the same way, shared similar rhythms and some even sounded identical if you put they lyrics aside. I personally was not a fan of this album I found it rather boring because of this fact that they all sounded the same and there was really nothing huge to set the songs apart. Each of the tacks referenced a different personal or social issue. One thing I did like about this album and the songs on it was there was little negative talk about women and didn’t talk too much about the hard life on the streets as a rapper at that time.

One thing I noticed that was similar about the songs was they each used a sample in the intro and in the chorus that related to the content of the song. Most of them I didn’t recognize but I’m pretty sure they even through the Rocky Theme song in there somewhere. Each song seemed to include a different element into the rap. Some seemed to have a jazz influence where as others would sound more like old rap with heavy scratching, one even included authentic Mexican guitar samples. It was interesting to see how the songs changed with the different accents that the Quest pulled from different genres and used in the tracks.

Each of these things, the consistent rhythms, rather clean yet socially aware lyrics, and use of sampling in every song give A Tribe Called Quest their own unique anesthetic compared to the overruling gangster rap style at the time. They don’t use every song to say F*** you or your hoes they try to convey their points about politics using everyday words that don’t involve profanity. For example in “Youthful Expression”, “Politicians are magicians, Make your vote, they hope your wishin, Ambiguous words, senseless verbs, They all amount to crap that’s heard, Violent hip hop, money flip flops…” A group like public enemy would have done this basically giving the entire political F U but A Tribe Called Quest tried to explain why they think politicians are full of crap without just straight up saying screw you. This gives them an entire different vibe and anesthetic as a group and for this I have more respect for their music.

Even the album art sets Tribe apart from the other popular rap artists at the time. when compared to album art from Public Enemy, KRS-One, or NWA you would not guess that Tribe was a rap group. The three listed all have violent hard looking album covers that either feature their own faces or have some kind of semi-violent reference like cross hairs from a scope. The album cover for Peoples Instinctive Travels contains a wide variety of bright colors and drawings of people all over the cover who appear to be just taking a journey. This adds to the unique anesthetic of the group setting them apart from the rest of the rap world as we know it.

All in all I wasn’t a fan of this album but I thought it showed examples of the progression of rap and hip hop that we have been discussing in class. Each of the things that separate them from the rest of the typical rap genre make their mark on the genre more significant. I think that their music is trying to show that it is ok to be different and they are leading by example by being different in the rap world.

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