With the recent release of the documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip has had some time to air his thoughts on a slew of topics. While the film’s subject has been a bit controversial for some, including Q-Tip, it has also been a critically acclaimed project. Recently, Q-Tip bounced off of this, to look back on his career and several different albums he’s been a part of. During an interview with Vibe, the Tribe member spoke on what it was like to make The Low End Theory, the significance of “Excursions” and the group’s “problems” while making Beats, Rhymes & Life, the album.
When speaking about Low End Theory, Tip shared that the crew had no thoughts about a commercially viable disc at the time of recording. Instead, he says they remained focus on what they did naturally and success came to them.
“I’m an artist and I have visions that I try to capture on records, but they don’t always come out the way I see them. For me it’s about being invested in the work and striving for the best music that you can put out there. But Tribe was never thinking about what we could do commercially on The Low End Theory. We didn’t think about any of that. Of course you want to make a gold or platinum album, but we just had confidence in what we were doing. And we had confidence in our music, so that allowed us to stay in our lane musically and still be successful.”
“Excursions” is a cut that stood out for Tip as he expressed how much it meant to him to speak on the tight-knit relationship he had with his father, a man who he says understood the importance of Rap early on.
“My opening verse on ‘Excursions’ was very personal. It was all about my dad. A lot of people don’t know about my father, but we had a real tight relationship. When he passed away it was just tough. So that song was about my excursions of traveling in my mind. It was my travel man manifesto. I remember listening to the Treacherous Three with my dad. I was playing the record where they were going, ‘Rock the body, body, rock the body, body…So Special K, hey, what’s it gonna be?’ And my dad was like, ‘Man, this sounds like someone scatting on a jazz record.’ He saw the connection.”
Low End Theory isn’t the only topic he discusses. In fact, Tip also goes into a variety of other albums, including Amplified, Midnight Marauders, Mobb Deep’s The Infamous and Nas’ “One Love.” When speaking on one album in particular, Beats, Rhymes & Life, The Abstract went on to say that his conversion to Islam may have caused some discomfort at the time for other members. He also added that Consequence’s arrival may have rubbed others the wrong way. However, he made sure to note that he never felt the problems were too serious at the time.
“I hear everybody making it seem like there was a lot of problems in the group during this time. I hear Phife and them talking about how there was all these issues during Beats, Rhymes and Life. But the issues weren’t really that dire. If they were they weren’t brought to my attention. If Tribe was really breaking up we wouldn’t have been able to make this album. One issue might have been that there was a new dynamic in the group because we had J Dilla producing on some songs and Consequence on some tracks.”
“But the biggest thing that definitely weighed on that album was my conversion to Islam. It made the atmosphere much more serious. I was really ardent about my practice. Seeing me pray in the studio definitely made Phife feel a little uncomfortable. But it was never a he hates me, I hate him conflict. I think that’s been overblown. The conflicts were all around the changing dynamics of the group. But I was never bringing Consequence in to take Phife’s place. He was my little cousin who lived next door. He always wanted to rap and I was just giving him that opportunity to see how it felt to ride the big boy bike.”