Watch A Tribe Called Quest on ‘Yo MTV! Raps Unplugged’
(Credit: Spotify)

Old School Archives

Watch A Tribe Called Quest on 'Yo MTV! Raps Unplugged'

Before the YouTube and social media era, television and radio were the primary sources of new music for young hip-hop fans. In 1981, Music TV (MTV) launched, and although there was not any hip-hop on the channel initially, in 1984, the visuals for Run-DMC’s ‘Rock Box’ were broadcast on MTV, and rap visuals officially entered rotation. In 1991, a special edition of Yo! MTV Raps aired and among the many acts performing was A Tribe Called Quest.

A Tribe Called Quest (Quest) was 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.

As part of the Native Tongues collective, the four-piece ensemble helped cultivate a conscious, less aggressive style of rap music that explored themes surrounding Afrocentrism, The Five-Percent Nation and looked at the African-American experience in a more holistic way in comparison to other acts such as Public Enemy and N.W.A.

In 1991, the collective released its critically acclaimed project, The Low End Theory. With its live instrumentation, jazz samples and minimal use of explicit lyrics, the body of work showed the profound and meaningful capabilities of the genre to its critics.

In an interview with VIBE magazine, Q-Tip detailed concerning the album, “For us it was about being invested in the work and striving for the best music that we could put out there. We was never thinking about what we could do commercially on The Low End Theory. We didn’t think about any of that.”

Shortly after the project’s release, an all-star lineup appeared on a special edition of The Yo! MTV Raps, including the likes of De La Soul, MC Lyte, A Tribe Called Quest, and LL Cool J. AMong many songs the collective performed, a highlight was undoubtedly their delivery of ‘Can I Kick It.’

You can watch the MTV special in the video below.