Picks and Pans Review: Beats, Rhymes and Life
This New York City threesome has an ingratiating knack for making drowsy beats and chilled-out rhyming sound absolutely full of life. Although the follow-the-leader mentality that rules rap has rendered Tribe's smooth, jazzy flow less extraordinary than it was on their 1990 debut, the group's unruffled attitude still sets them apart from their hot-blooded hip-hop counterparts.
On their fourth album, rappers Q-Tip and Phife Dawg sound so cool-headed when they drop their pronouncements—"Hip hop can never be a way of life/ It doesn't tell you how to raise a child or treat a wife"—one wonders if the guys aren't propped up on pillows, watching a ball game on TV. And DJ-coproducer Ali makes tracks like "The Pressure" and "Mind Power" fresh and riveting by punctuating the group's blurry, bloodshot rhythm with turntable scratching and sharp, piercing percussion. Too bad Phife Dawg jeopardizes Tribe's quest for timeless-ness when, on "The Hop," he plays pop-culture junkie with punch lines out of Johnny Carson, O.J. Simpson, Kato Kaelin and even the Pocahontas premiere. Pocahontas! Dawggone, Phife. That was so last summer. (Jive)