Here is an interview with A Tribe Called Quest written by our very own Warren Peace back in 1994.
July 8th 1994, the fourth annual Lollapalooza festival kicked off in Las Vegas, the first date of a 41 city tour. Joining Nick Cave, George Clinton, the Beastie Boys, the Breeders, L7, the Verve, Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day were A Tribe Called Quest, one of the few hip-hop acts on the bill. At the time I was hosting a hip-hop radio show on KUNV, and my label rep at Jive offered me free tickets to the festival and an interview with Tribe.
The group had released Midnight Marauders eight months earlier, so the buzz on them was at peak levels. It was my second interview with them—the first interview was at the video shoot for “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” which took place about 60 miles outside of Vegas. That interview went great, Jarobi was even there!
But this second interview didn’t go quite as well. I was late because of the heavy traffic rolling into Lollapalooza, and the group was not happy. Q-Tip scolded me when I arrived and said “You’re late!” I was a huge fan of him, so I apologized profusely. We then proceeded with an awkward, uncomfortable interview featuring brief answers and a blasé attitude from the crew.
But Phife was the coolest of the bunch. Once I got him to open up, he took it seriously. Q-Tip did speak about the group’s album that would follow Midnight Marauders, vehemently denying that label politics kept them from releasing it in 1995. In fact, they wouldn’t release a new record until 1996’s lukewarm Beats, Rhymes and Life. I wonder what it would have sounded like if it was released in 1995? It might have been an entirely different album.
Because of the uneasy vibe of the interview, I never played it on the show. It just collected dust in a box of cassette tapes. I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago, and with the news of Phife’s unfortunate passing, I thought it would be a good time to share it with the world. Enjoy.
Warren Peace: I didn’t want to ask any of the typical questions that everyone is asking. One of the things I wanted to know about, is a lot of your fans like the fact that you are keeping your albums on the same vibe, not switching it up every time. What is the creative process like when you guys start a new record?
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: We get a bunch of leaves, some soil and a candle and we shake around and shit, man. Nah, nothin’ man we just go in and do it.
How do you pick the breaks and samples for the songs?
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: As we travel, we go record shopping.
Have you been record shopping since you’ve been here?
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Me and Tip went yesterday. We’re going again as soon as we get done with all of this stuff.
Where did you go record shopping, Tip?
Q-Tip: I don’t know.
Did you go to any of the Record City stores?
What kind of records do you look for when you go shopping?
Phife, you’ve come up a lot since this record and the last one, getting on the mic a little bit more. You did something with Shaq and I know you have a solo album or something coming up around the corner. Anything else you got coming up?
Phife: Not really, I’m just trying to put my peoples out, that’s really it.
Who are your people?
Phife: Too early to mention. A bunch of people.
You looking at getting a record label?
Phife: Nah, not for me.
Another thing I had to ask you about was The Knicks…
Phife: Well, Greg Anthony lives in Vegas, so nuff said.
Tip, in the Scope Magazine interview, you talked about producing for other groups and remixing other groups, basically asking why keep all of the good shit to yourself. Like the beat you did for Nas. Don’t you ever feel like, “Damn, I wish I kept that beat for myself.”
Tip: Nah. I mean, I said it in that. You know what I’m saying? I just try to do my thing.
How did you guys get together? I know you went to high school together and hooked up with the Jungle Brothers…
Phife: I grew up with Tip. Tip went to high school with Ali, which was the same school as the Jungle Brothers and that’s how it all came about. Me and Tip had been rapping together and we went to Ali and just hooked up.
In the beginning when you guys first started out, you were doing a lot of things with Jungle Brothers and De La Soul. Is that still happening?
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Every day is a different story, we can’t predict about too much about what we’re going to do. If it turns out to be that way, then so be it. Another thing is, people expect us to do it, so we never do what people expect us to do. If you are predictable, it doesn’t make sense for you to be out there.
So basically, everyone’s kind of going in their own direction.
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Everyone was going in their own direction since jump street, it’s just that the fans glorified the unity. But we’ve always been on our own doing shit and we will be. If it happens that we all come together and do a jam, then so be it. It’s not like we are turning our noses and saying we’re not going to do it. If the vibe is there, then so be it.
Do you guys keep up with what everyone else does?
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Yep.
What are the Jungle Brothers doing right now? I know their last album was on Warner.
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: They’re livin’.
I listened to the interview I did with you about four years ago at the video shoot for “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo.” I remember I was talking to Jarobi and I asked him what he’d be doing if he wasn’t with Tribe and he mentioned that he wanted to go to culinary arts school. What’s the story with Jarobi? Is he in the studio with you still?
Phife Dawg: He’s chillin’. He lives in DC, but he’s doing his thing.
Do you still consider him a part of the group?
Phife Dawg: Yeah, he’s our boy, you know what I’m sayin’? He be chillin’ with me down South, but he’s just doing his own thing right now. He’s still into that cooking shit.
Q-Tip, do you have any projects coming up in the future, as far as putting out your own people or doing remixes for anyone? Stuff like that?
Q-Tip: We’re just putting out this next album and just keeping our ear open for niggas, you know? Whenever new shit come through, just keeping the ear open, you know what I’m sayin’?
What’s up with the new album? I heard you wanted to put it out as soon as possible, but the record company wasn’t sure if they wanted this soon.
Q-Tip: No. That’s not true. We just go and do it. See what I’m sayin’?
How do you guys feel about the rappers that are out now, as far as Wu-Tang, M.O.P.?
Phife Dawg: They coming up, we ain’t mad.
Do you also look out for groups like Souls of Mischief, Pharcyde?
Phife Dawg: Mm-hmm.
If I were to look in your tape deck right now, what would I find?
Phife Dawg: In mine, you’d find a lot of old R&B stuff, like the Isley Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, Chic. Stuff like that. As far as hip-hop, like you said, Wu-Tang, Black Moon. I haven’t really heard M.O.P.’s stuff yet, but I’ve keep hearing a good buzz about them. I usually buy everybody’s stuff. Da Brat, whoever. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s wack, it’s wack. But I always give my support. If you looked in mine, you’d see basically everything.
So you listen to west coast, east coast, down south…?
Phife Dawg: (Laughs) Well hold on, not that “Shake That” and all that stuff. I don’t got that.
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: My tape bag is right up there if you want to look in it. I don’t really know what I got in there. I listen to all sorts of things.
Are you guys digging anything from the groups you are on tour with now at Lollapalooza, besides the Beastie Boys?
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: No, not really.
Phife Dawg: It’s no diss, we just haven’t heard most of the people that are on it, besides George [Clinton] and the Beasties.
This is probably one of the biggest tours you guys have been on. What do you look towards happening?
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Just doing our regular thing.
Phife Dawg: Gaining more supporters, that’s cool. If not, oh well. We’re going to do it regardless, because we have to live with each other anyway, you know what I’m saying? So it’s alright.
On the “Oh My God,” 12″ there’s the Know Naim remix. Are we going to hear more from those brothers soon?
Q-Tip: Eventually, eventually.
Phife Dawg: Those are three kids from Tip’s neighborhood.
Is there anything else that you want to add?
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Thanks for supporting us. We got this next one about to come out next year and that’s about it.
DOWNLOAD ON DMS