Foreign Gists

The 25 best A Tribe Called Quest songs


A Tribe Called Quest is one of hip-hop’s most underrated and unappreciated crews. Formed in New York’s legendary borough of Queens, the home of Run-DMC and Mobb Deep, A Tribe Called Quest was pivotal in popularising alternative hip-hop during the 1990s.

Comprised of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and rapper Jarobi White, the crew’s jazz-infused work saw them establish a unique breakaway sound. Labelled initially as “progressive rap”, the subgenre and aesthetic would come to be known as jazz-hop by the late 1990s. 

The ensemble’s creators, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, were childhood friends who had grown up together in the St. Albans neighbourhood of Queens. In the mid-1980s, the two would record demos. However, wanting to follow in the footsteps of local acts such as Juice Crew, the duo decided to expand and recruited two more members. These individuals were Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White. The former was a high school classmate, and the latter a neighbourhood friend.   

The four-piece outfit recorded under many monikers, including Crush Connection and Quest. However, in 1988 they finally settled with A Tribe Called Quest. Appearing on underground records alongside acts such as Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and Roots, in 1989, the crew hired hip-hop’s gatekeeper Kool DJ Red Alert as their manager. 

Initially turned down by Geffen Records, the crew managed to bag a lucrative deal with Jive Records in the early ’90s and from there, the group managed to build a name for themselves. Their 1990 debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was released to critical acclaim and was praised for its eclectic choice of samples and exciting fusion of genres. 

Following the themes surrounding Afrocentrism and The Five-Percent Nation that were arising in neo-soul and other areas of hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest snowballed to become one of New York’s most sought-after acts alongside the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and Junior M.A.F.I.A. 

The ensemble’s 1993 album Midnight Marauders is still regarded as a hip-hop classic, with its single ‘Electric Relaxation’ among one of the best hip-hop tracks ever made and their 1990 single, ‘Bonita Applebum’ is thought to be the jazz-hop record ever made. Below we have compiled a list containing 25 of the group’s must-hear tracks.

The 25 best Tribe Called Quest songs:

  • ‘Can I Kick It?’
  • ‘Bonita Applebum’
  • ‘Mr Muhammad’
  • ‘Ham N Eggs’
  • ‘I Left My Wallet in El Segundo’
  • ‘Push It Along’
  • ‘Verses From The Abstract’
  • ‘Show Business’
  • ‘Jazz (We’ve Got)’
  • ‘Scenario’
  • ‘Check The Rhime’
  • ‘Award Tour’
  • ‘Electric Relaxation’
  • ‘Keep It Rollin’
  • ‘8 Million Stories’
  • ‘Oh My God’
  • ‘Midnight’
  • ‘1nce Again’
  • ‘Stressed Out’
  • ‘Find A Way’
  • ‘Steppin It Up’
  • ‘Like It Like That’
  • ‘Scenario (remix)’
  • ‘Rock Rock Y’all’
  • ‘Pad & Pen’