In all honesty it's hard to see what possessed A Tribe Called Quest to pack their debut album People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths of Rhythm
with positive, well meaning hip-hop and inspirational lyrics. The year was 1990, and war was breaking out in rap music. Ice Cube had released his hate tirade, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
against N.W.A, the police, the world, and, well, himself. This was serious, so Tribe's entrance into the hip hop world seems hilarious and extremely misguided looking back on it, the group bugged out, stumbling onto the world stage talking about leaving their wallet's in Mexican eateries, getting pubic lice, and just going for a sandwich and a pint of guiness.
Though they may not have realised it at the time, Tribe effectively calmed the entire hip hop situation down, and solely influenced a legion of similarly positive hip hop artists, and spawned a thousand east coast wannabes, some who made it (Wu-Tang Clan certainly were Tribe fans) and some who obviously just didn't.
The subject matter of the album isn't the only remarkable thing though, it's the remarkably assured attitude and confidence with which it's delivered throughout. Over silky smooth funk basslines, pounding bass drums, groovy horns and jazz samples (Another extremely influential sampling technique which blew up conveniently after this album arrived) the groups slew of talented MC's, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg (though marginalized on this release somewhat) and nearly-man, Jarobi, Tribe push their own envelopes lyrically and stylistically. MC's competing for Mic time seemed extremely alien at the time, and with the Tribe (and De La's) guiding hand, Hip hop found a new fixation; the rap group.
Influence aside though, the album really is very enjoyable. Whether it be the aptly named extended opener, Push It Along, or the humourous (and teasing) xenophobic follow up, Luck of Lucien, Tribe maintain a sense of fun, but at all times a grip on their own remarkable skills as MC's, impressionists, DJ's, or simply producers. People's Instinctive may sadly be overlooked for it's rightly critically revered followups (Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders) but that is no reason to rate it lower, it's sound is so similar and polished, but of such a high quality that it's impressive to say the very least. The album may lag a bit in later tracks (The pretty boring and long Ham & Eggs, or Go Ahead in the Rain's needless addition) may bring the album's rating down somewhat, but make no mistake; the first side and a half of this album is a strong contender for Tribe's best.
After Hours really perfectly sums the album up. With a joyous sun-soaked sample, laid back drums and friendly lyrics and vocals, it's pretty obvious to see that Tribe aren't gangstas, they're simply a bunch of friends looking for something to do on a sunny day, be it drink in a beer garden, go find something to eat, or just wind up a crazy homeless man. The band are in many ways perfect role models, their lack of aggression and massively playful nature is so genuine and infectious in itself that spinning People's Instinctive
on a sunny day off work is guaranteed to raise the mood of even the world's biggest Scrooge.