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Top 10 A Tribe Called Quest Songs

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Q.V. Hough Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Talk about a hip hop act for the ages. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 A Tribe Called Quest Songs. For this list, we're focusing on the standout tracks from official studio releases by A Tribe Called Quest. Special thanks to our users Chance Ellisonor submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Q.V. Hough

Top 10 A Tribe Called Quest Songs

 
Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Talk about a hip hop act for the ages. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 A Tribe Called Quest Songs.
 
For this list, we’re focusing on the standout tracks from official studio releases by A Tribe Called Quest. As a result, no guest appearances or live covers are included.
 

#10: “Award Tour” feat. Trugoy
Midnight Marauders (1993)

 
After two breakthrough albums, the Tribe released a radio-friendly jam that demonstrated the group’s inherent groove and lyrical proficiency. Sampling Weldon Irvine’s 1975 track “We Gettin’ Down”, the crew from Queens gives shout-outs to various locales with the assistance of Trugoy from De La Soul. And with Q-Tip on point by delivering verbal jabs with a smooth flow,  Phife Dawg also grabs the mic to question the intent of haters. Perhaps the most well-known track by A Tribe Called Quest, “Award Tour” spreads the Zulu Nation vibe worldwide.
 

#9:“Oh My God” feat. Busta Rhymes
Midnight Marauders (1993)

 
For this Tribe classic, Q-Tip and Phife Diggy trade rhymes early on, with the latter famously referring to himself as “The Funky Diabetic”. Sadly, he would ultimately pass away from diabetes-related complications in 2016, yet this track highlights Phife’s willingness to confront health issues while giving props to some of the more defining female artists of the day. With Busta Rhymes on the hook, and a couple fresh samples via both Kool and The Gang and Max Roach, “Oh My God” highlights the hypnotic nature of the group’s flow, infusing a Caribbean style of speech at times and providing afresh twist on their beloved sound.
 

#8: “Bonita Applebum”
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths Of Rhythm (1990)

 
Most definitely one of the most referenced tracks in hip-hop history, this early Tribe hit conducts a casual conversation with a uniquely-named female. Leaning on the band's RAMP, Rotary Connection and Little Feat for musical inspiration, Q-Tip glides through each verse, revealing himself to the titular Bonita, which leads up to the declarative chorus. It’s adifferent kind of love song for sure, but as a middle track on the Tribe’s landmark debut, it conveys the essence of their core aesthetic: beats, rhymes and life. Oh, and maybe a little jazz as well.
 

#7: “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”
People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm (1990)

 
Containing an unconventional narrative and a sample of The Chamber Brothers’ “Funky”, this Tribe joint is exactly that. Tinged with a touch of Spanish flavor, Tip communicates his plight with a set of descriptive yet practical rhymes. And it’s the type of track that keeps one guessing, as even the Coen Brothers featured the track in their 2004 film “The Ladykillers”. At the end of the day, however, “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” boasts that unmistakable Tribe vibe, and as the fifth joint on their immaculate debut, it only further enhanced the group’s mystique upon release.
 
 

#6: “Jazz (We’ve Got)”
The Low End Theory (1991)

 
Musically, the title says it all, especially considering the now legendary throwback sound of A Tribe Called Quest. But visually, the group from Jamaica, Queens unveiled a new cinematic technique by making a seamless transition from one song to the next with a single music video. And musically, well, it doesn’t get any better than a little jazz complemented by the ethereal rhymes from Q Tip. Phife Dawg makes an appearance too, of course, but it’s the head Master of Ceremonies that holds down the majority of the track’s running time. Hey, there’s no such thing as too much jazz, and A Tribe Called Quest has plenty.
  

#5: “Electric Relaxation”
Midnight Marauders (1993)

 
As one of the definitive hip-hop groups of the early '90s, Tribe was known to conjure up poignant images though street poetry. For the eighth track off their third release, Q-Tip and Phife make their case for romance, even if the unknown female subject just can’t seem to chill. Utilizing the “Mystic Brew” sounds of Ronnie Foster, Tribe keeps the message direct and simple. Sure, maybe some of the lyrics don’t hold up in the more PC world of today, yet back in ’93, “Electric Relaxation” reflected a specific place and time in the realm of the genre.
 

#4: “Buggin’ Out”
The Low End Theory (1991)

 
By the early 90s, the hip-hop genre was at a crossroads, and that’s because A Tribe Called Quest took it there. With their innovative sophomore release that brought jazz and lyricism together, “Buggin’ Out” immediately stands out as the second track through it’s free-form style. With the “abstract poet” and “the five foot freak” essentially buggin’ out because they feel like it, the song exudes more attitude than anything else. And looking back on Tribe’s discography, this is the joint that essentially changed the game, as “Buggin’ Out” was something entirely new.
 

#3: “Scenario” feat. Leaders of the New School
The Low End Theory (1991)

 
When Tribe first hit the scene, the “posse” ideal was alive and well. And so, the group proceeded to close off “The Low End Theory” with perhaps the ultimate posse cut ever recorded. Today, Busta Rhymes remains a legend in his own right, yet it was “Scenario” that elevated the MC from a Leader of the New School to a rising voice of the genre. Phife Dawg kicks off the party in “Scenario”, with Charlie Brown and Dinco D paving the way for the brilliant conclusion. And as the album’s finale, it was the exclamation point on a powerful musical statement to fellow MCs.
 

#2: “Can I Kick It?”
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths Of Rhythm (1990)

 
Believe it or not, the iconic punk rocker Lou Reed inadvertently has a place in hip-hop history. And that’s because a group of Queens teenagers chose to sample the former Velvet Underground singer all the way back in 1989. Representing a “Walk on the Wild Side” for a new generation, “Can I Kick It?” is lyrically sparse, but the content itself reinforces the laid-back aesthetic of the Tribe. At the time of the release, the words perhaps didn’t make a lot of sense to some, but this is how Q-Tip and Phife worked, as they weren’t interested in fitting the mold but rather innovating the genre itself.
 
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Hot Sex”
Boomerang Soundtrack (1992)
 
 “1nce Again” feat. Tammy Lucas
Beats, Rhymes and Life (1996)
 
“Luck of Lucien”
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths Of Rhythm (1990)
 
“Sucka N****”
Midnight Marauders (1993)
 

#1: “Check the Rhime”
The Low End Theory (1991)

 
Released as the first single from the masterpiece that is The Low End Theory, “Check the Rhime” has since become somewhat of a hip hop essential. With Q-Tip calling out his neighborhood with the opening line, “Check the Rhime” immediately conveys a sense of authenticity. And with Phife Dawg joining in for a conversational dialogue early on, each MC subsequently dominates their own respective verses. Sampling the likes of Minnie Riperton, Grover Washington Jr., Steve Miller Band and even Average White Band, A Tribe Called Quest fused their inspirations together to inspire a new school of artists.
 
So, do you agree with our selections? What is your favorite track by A Tribe Called Quest? For more throwback Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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