A Tribe Called Quest: For Whom The Bells Toll
With accolades upon accolades, they have been celebrated and hated. Now, they will be watched even more. For the collective, this is an opportunity to showcase their legacy and their skills in front of old fans, new fans and kids who have never heard an ATCQ album. They are headlining this years Rock the Bells as the tour heads out on its first global summer excursion, amplifying its own impact across the world. The Tribe, who will be joined on the bill by The Pharcyde, De La Soul and Nas, took some time to speak with us about the reunion, their latest solo projects, their legacy and the possibilities of a new group album.
HipHopDX: Its been awhile. What made you all decide, We gotta get together again?
Ali: Honestly, I think any time that, looking at our history, our career or how long its been that weve been in the music business, how long its been that we havent been inWhen you receive an invitation, you gotta look at where you are like, Who am I to deny this? Its a blessing. Especially when its called Rock the Bells which in and of itself means a lot just as a quote. Then, looking at what these guys, Guerrilla Union are bringing with all the acts [click to read], how can we not be a part of this?
DX: You talk about the name Rock the Bells. You hear the history with Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and then now, with you guysHow does it add fire or pressure up under you to perform even better?
Phife: Wow! I wouldnt say it adds pressure at all. But, we need to hit the gym. Thats it. [Laughs]
Ali: It just reminds me of some of our early shows when we used to wear hooded robes. At that point in time, no one was doing what we was doing. I can't speak for these guys, but for me, it was a lot of nerves but it took a lot of balls to step out and do that and have confidence in what we knew we had. We always maintained that. Be it 1989 or be it 2009, I think that's our spirit. We love what we do and we want to make sure that the people out there know what it's about. Its always been the same for us.
DX: Well talk about 2009. Obviously, theres the tendency to say, Lets look into the future. Currently, I know everyone just wants to kick back and enjoy the moment. But, looking into the future, there has to be some speculation, even inside of your minds, that there will be an album.
Phife: We gotta take it day by day.
Jarobi: But, theres definitely speculation. We're not gonna sit here and say we're not thinking about it. Of course we're thinking about it! But everything has to be lined up in the proper way at the proper time. We cant have A-to-Z and then a Y missing.
DX: Is there anything you see missing, that you can see being fixed for it to happen?
Ali: It's not anything tangible that we could physically pin point and say, "This is the element [missing for us to record another album]." It's a combination of a lot of different things. Q-Tip [click to read] is working on his solo album right now. He's been working on it for a minute. He's had several obstacles he's had to deal with with regards to the industry. That's what everyone is dealing with. It doesnt matter if youre the big star or the little star. So, he wants to see that happen and we want to make sure that it happens. Same with me and working on my album. We 'bout to start Phife on his. So, theres a whole lotta other elements of life that exist as we try to co-exist with this mantra of A Tribe Called Quest that we put out there.
DX: The Tribe is legendary. Its iconic for some. But, now we have kids who have never heard it. They are now going to hear it without a doubt. Youre bringing a new generation to the fold. How does that feel?
Phife: Fantastic! It makes me feel old, but its gonna be great because we toured in 06. We had young kids then coming to our shows knowing every song word for word. Cant forget, they have older brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles who grew up on us. Theyre probably still wondering why "We Left Our Wallet in El Segundo," but they know everything else about us. So, now the kids know word for word, coming to our shows. That aint nothin but a blessing.
Jarobi: The word I keep throwing out is "humbling." It puts your life in perspective. For me, to still beI guess important after all these years is crazy! We didnt start with any idea
Phife: We dont really know how to be superstars, man. We was just doing what we loved to do, man. For people to walk up on usI cant do nothin but humbly accept it.
Ali: As far as the element of kids who werent even born when we were doing our thing and now being old enough to get into concerts. For me, its proof. Its proof that when you maintain a high level of integrity and care and love for the culture and for one another, it works. For all the people that made cracks on us like Look at those funny kids making that funny music. Twenty years later, its proof.
Phife: I got three words: "Wow. Word? Damn!"
DX: You got cats on the bill that love you guys or grew up on you guys. My question is, who do you see that makes you say, Damn, I want to work with them. I respect them. That guys amazing. Just talking about the up and comers.
Ali: I like Murs because I think Murs is carrying the same kind of torch. He comes from the same roof we came from musically, just trying to make sure he puts something positive in it when you walk away from it. It makes you think. Its not in a preachy way. Jay Electronica, the same way! He brings forward a spirit. He has crazy cadence, first of all. Its ridiculous. His lyrics is the same thing. It makes me take a look at my life in comparison to what I see and how it should be. They kick it, not only how its supposed to be but also how it should be. You might not see it on a mainstream level but it exists. Im happy to be on the same bill as those guys. They inspire me to go back in the studio.
DX: So, its safe to say youll be peeking out of the curtains?
Phife: Psh! Yeah! Out the curtain? Ill be right there on the side! [Laughs]