New York, NY – A Tribe Called Quest’s fourth album Beats, Rhymes, and Life celebrated its 20th anniversary over the weekend. The album shares the same title as the seminal 2010 documentary film directed by Michael Rapaport, which chronicles the highs and lows that coincided with the group’s 20-year tenure. At the time of its release on July 30, 1996, rap music was in the midst of a Civil War between the media-publicized East vs. West conflict that eventually preceded the deaths of the Tupac Shakur in September 1996 and six months later for The Notorious B.I.G., on March 9, 1997.
Also in 1996, the rap industry was going through its transitional period of marketing segmentation between the popularity gangsta rap versus conscious rap, and the “Jiggy” era that fans associated with labels like Bad Boy and So So Def Records. The Queens collective was also in the throes of their own internal strife as well as answering to the paradigm shift in Hip Hop music’s representation to the mainstream. Also, BRL was the second strike in the “reinstated” Native Tongue crew’s tour-de-force with De La Soul and Jungle Brothers, and then-newly added members Common, and Mos Def to continue their legacy in Hip Hop within that paradigm shift.
Former Good Music artist, Consequence, Q-Tip’s cousin, was introduced by the group before and during the recording of BRL, which put him on the radar of Bad Boy CEO Puff Daddy before he ultimately was featured on the lion’s share of BRL. In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, the “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” rapper gives amazing backstories about how he and J Dilla entered Tribe’s fold for the production of the album, the group’s run-in with Westside Connection and Tupac that inspired some of the album’s content, how it made Consequence quit his day job as a street corner rogue from Linden Blvd., and how it gave him a platform to make music with Kanye West in during the 2000s.
Consequence Remembers Joining A Tribe Called Quest
HipHopDX: Before you got involved with the recording of BRL, who were some of the other people in the rap industry that you tried to get on with?
Consequence: The first thing I did with Tribe was a record called “The Chase, Pt. 2,” which was on the B-side of “Award Tour.” And so after that, I got my first look when they were playing it on mixshows of whatever. And then Tribe went on tour. Then when Tribe went on tour, I was only 16 when that record came out. I had went and got a manager by the name of Dino Delvaille. Dino manages OT Genasis now. He’s the guy that did that Cash Money [Records] $30-million dollar deal, the first big deal that Cash Money did [with Universal Records]. At the time, he was overseeing some of the management for Gang Starr. So I put a demo together with him, and I ended up playing it for my cousin Q-Tip, and Tip loved it.
ATCQ and Consequence freestyling for glory circa 1996
I got that first look because I kinda had to go off on my own for a second and then just prove myself or whatever. Then when [they] came back, me and Q-Tip did the demo for like two songs. He played it for Chris Lighty, and then he played it for Puff. So Puff only had Craig Mack and Biggie as rappers. So before he picked The Lox and Mase up, he wanted to sign me. So I told Tip that he wanted to do the deal, that’s how I ended up in Tribe because Tip had his own imprint with Elektra. And since it was me anyway, Tip was like “Well, I’m just gonna put you in Tribe for the BRL album as a stepping stone, as a new member.”
HipHopDX: BRL had more mature and spiritually conscious content compared to Tribe’s earlier albums. Also, from the intro, some of the lyrics seemed like an affront towards the rap industry at the time. Would you agree or disagree?
Consequence: Well, I think what was happening at the time, you gotta remember there was this pool of energy at the time. It was 1995 when we recorded it. Around ‘94-’95 when the scenario I came in, I remember me having a conversation in his car about Puff wanting to sign me, and me joining Tribe. So at the time there’s a pool within the industry, you know, this is the start of the “culture vs. commercialism” argument. Because we’re coming off the heel of Nas putting out Illmatic, Redman’s first two albums, that were commercially successful, but it was also off the heels of Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle. And then right smack in the middle comes the Wu-Tang Clan. This is where you got street culture, pop culture, and Hip Hop culture. So Tribe obviously, and by my estimation, is heads-up Hip Hop culture. You have Tribe, De La Soul, Souls of Mischief, Pharcyde, basically everyone of them following under the conscious Hip Hop movement, whoomp whoomp, etcetera, etcetera. And then on the other side you got street rap ushering in a new era where BRL coming out at that same time. Plus, this also marks the 20th anniversary of The Score. So like I said, you got B.I.G. and the Bad Boy camp, you got Jay Z, so it’s this pool of energy in that I don’t think the album was a backlash. I think it was identifying that things were changing. There was an uprising of commercialism in Hip Hop. I think from Tribe’s standpoint where they put creativity first, and they were able to make a dollar. You know what I’m saying? That’s something they were definitely proud of and stood for.
Top Billin’: The album reached #1 on the Billboard 200 Chart and introduced the world to The Ummah.
Consequence Says “Stressed Out” Helped Him Create Kanye West’s Earlier Records
HipHopDX: Even though The Source gave BRL 4 out of 5 mics, many other rap and music publications gave it lukewarm, mediocre reviews. Do you recall your reaction to the press?
Consequence: I definitely saw some things that I was disappointed with at the time. Because for me, it was my first major look. When you do something at the level, you want all positive. But I think in all honesty, now it’s a way more revered piece of work than it was regarded at the time. I mean, [you’re] coming off the coming off the heels of The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders. So see these things later when the [BRL] documentary happened, you understand where they were as a group at the time. I don’t want to say anything more than it was a riff because Phife has passed away. In fairness of what was going on at the time, when I stepped into the group it was one of the best times of my life. But it was definitely kind of sad to see it not be as unified as it once was. Hey, every group has gone through it. Outkast’s Andre  and Big Boi have had their times where they needed to just have some space. And it’s hard to have space when you’re on top of the Hip Hop culture, under a magnifying glass with everybody looking at you for the next great thing. If you put on [BRL] right now, it’s a classic for a lot of people. But it kind of took a different turn from when “1nce Again” came out first with a featured R&B singer, and then “Stressed Out” came out with Faith [Evans] on the record. It was a different bounce from, say, “Scenario,” “Electric Relaxation,” or “Can I Kick It?” To me it wasn’t worse. But Tribe had never had an outright radio-friendly single. Their thing was just records coming onto to radio from groundswell. But I think “Stressed Out was a hit record that was meant for radio and beyond. But then to what was other songs were saying on other parts of the record, I can see why people were like, “Wait, so, in one breath you are saying this, but in another breath, you guys got a mainstream hit record!” (Laughs)
Crew Love: The photo was taken shortly before Phife Dawg’s untimely death in March 2016.
HipHopDX: Nevertheless, were you satisfied because you had Tribe’s platform to be heard in the industry?
Consequence: For me, it was a great experience of my life because when I weigh the good and the bad, for me as an artist, a songwriter, and as a producer to have “Stressed Out” on my resume, it’s priceless at this point. To have [BRL] on my résumé, it’s priceless as a start. You gotta take the good and the bad in this industry. I went on to do great things. I’m a key part of the The College Dropout, a key part to Late Registration, and a key part to 808s & Heartbreak, obviously Don’t Quit Your Day Job!, helping make #1 records at radio. What was happening with [BRL] set the tables that I would end up on later because “Stressed Out” and “Spaceship” are in the same family as far as I’m concerned. You have a big hook talking about your introverted experiences and your struggles. And it bullseyes people’s emotions. They both are saying the same thing. I could never say that I don’t like “Stressed Out” because I know that it was cookie cut for what would become the records that people love from Consequence.
HipHopDX: I loved the Raphael Saadiq remix of “Stressed Out” on the 12-inch B-side more than the original.
Consequence: Oh yeah. I like that version a lot, too. I remember. I was on it. (Laughs)
Consequence Talks J Dilla’s Production on Beats, Rhymes, and Life and Lessons of Releasing First Singles
HipHopDX: What are you fondest memories of working in the studio with J Dilla on [BRL]?
Consequence: I guess just discovering him, period. When Q-Tip came off tour, like I said in the midst of the Chris Lighty conversation and the Puff conversation, [he] told me the ‘Yo, we have this kid from Detroit named Jay Dee. He’s got these beats that I think are ill. I’m thinking him of putting him down with the crew.’ “Stakes is High” was on his beat tape, and “Runnin” from The Pharcyde was on his beat tape, that shit was dope to me. So basically I co-signed Jay Dee coming in the group. As much as I was a member of Tribe, he was a member, too, for the [BRL] album. Jay Dee was cool as shit. We used to work out together. And he didn’t say a lot. But when you showed him something he liked, he was like “Okay, word.” He has his genius way of operating.
Consequence: I don’t recall that, but I remember hearing it. They recorded “Get a Hold” at Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s house. I don’t remember when he made it, but I do remember when he recorded it. One thing about [BRL] is that I wish I knew what I know now for what I knew then. I definitely would’ve pushed to have them shoot a video for “Get a Hold” and “The Jam.” I feel like we kind of missed the mark for not having a visual for one of those songs because them shits is fuckin’ fire! It’s just really, I was never really like a huge fan of “1nce Again.” Chris Lighty, God rest the dead, had said to come out with those first. I really feel like I got it but it was a little hard because they were trying to introduce me, and I was on so many [[BRL]] records. That was the vibe that we had. It was a little hard for me to star next to platinum artists. I had no qualms with it, though. It wasn’t in “Get a Hold,” it wasn’t “The Jam,” it wasn’t “Crew,” and I loved “Crew.” It was just the records put out first in which it’s a whole different experience. That’s one thing about [BRL]: it taught me how to put out the first single. How to put the right record out first. I went through this with “Callin’ Me” on Don’t Quit Your Day Job! Then I had to circle back and put out “Don’t Forget Em,” and then “Uncle Rahiem” for it to make it on [MTV’s] TRL. But it’s cool. These are the thing that you learn along the way. But I really wish that I could just YouTube a video of “Get a Hold,” “The Jam,” or “Wordplay.”
A Tribe Called Quest Once Had A Run-In With Westside Connection
HipHopDX: Was “Keep it Moving” an answer to Tupac after the 1994 Source Awards and anyone other who has allegedly approached A Tribe Called Quest?
Consequence: I think it was just addressing a few things. There was two things: Tribe getting into it with Westside Connection, we had a situation where we ran into Westside Connection in Miami, and see, at this time I was like super-don’t-give-a-fuck, fresh out of Queens. When I say off the corner, I mean, dealing with the goons everyday. It was basically that Tip had said something about the West Coast on a [DJ] Doo-Wop freestyle, we had a little light run-in with Ice Cube and them niggas. It was just at that time, it was really tense in that for anybody if you said anything. So I think Tip’s thing was just addressing that he was off of it from his standpoint. He wasn’t trying to front about it. It wasn’t really a situation for Tribe because Tribe’s shit is universal. And with Tupac, we had a situation where before [BRL] and the Source Awards thing happened, he interrupted them getting their award. So that’s when I started coming around, and didn’t give a fuck about no rappers. Like what the fuck a rapper gonna tell me when I’m on the corner everyday? I wasn’t a rapper at the time. I didn’t look at myself as a rapper. I looked at myself as a nigga from Queens. And I didn’t have a fanbase, and didn’t have disrespect for Tupac or [Westside Connection’s] Cube, Mack 10, and W.C. It was just from the angle like “these are my mans, these are my family.” They put me in a situation where I could get money, so you couldn’t say shit about him. So “Keep it Moving” was Tip saying, “We’re moving past this whole energy.”
Consequence is currently grooming his son Caiden for a career and rap as well as working on his next LP, Growing Up in New York. Follow him on Instagram @constv.