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Unless otherwise noted, quotes from Michael Rapaport’s Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest.

The soundtrack to ESPN’s The Fab Five is laced with early 90s hip-hop artists: NWA, Public Enemy, Ice Cube. In telling the story of the most famous amateur basketball team ever, the cultural ramifications – the music, the fashion, the attitude – are as much a part as the games played on the hardwood.

The 1991-93 edition of University of Michigan basketball team stands as one of the most famous sports teams ever, representing a flashpoint in American culture. The dominant storyline takes five young, black men in baggy shorts, black shoes and socks who talked trash while playing ball. According to some, this marked the decline of the “good old days.” This overall narrative emphasizes a brashness, fear and irreverence to authority that underlay white America’s attitude and understanding of black culture. The team – with it’s back-to-back Final Four appearances, multi-million dollar revenue generation and style of play – revolutionized college basketball and popular culture.

At the same time, another, quieter revolution was brewing. Instead of ominous sounding loops, a stand-up bass. Names like “James Brown, Fats Waller, Coltrane, Lina Horne” sprinkle the conversation. Out of Queens, A Tribe Called Quest, and later the collective Native Tongues, brought a message of awareness, identity, consciousness, empowerment, culture, movement and social connection. They told their story in their own way. As member Monie Love puts it:

We don’t have to do fuck the police. There’s a time and a place for fuck the police, and a group for that. We don’t have to do fight the power, there’s a time and a place and a group for that. We’re allowed to be different.

What does ATCQ and the formation of Native Tongues tell us about community? What role did music play in the emergence of this culture? Using Michael Rapaport’s “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest,” Truth Bomb Trails will explore the role of PLACE, ELDERS, CULTURE + SPIRIT and the formation of Native Tongues.

This week, Truth Bomb Trails is exploring Music + Social Justice: Building Community through Sound. Look forward to posts on the ways that musicians and artists provide public service, the perspective of Paul Willis (hear his music at bandcamp, soundcloud, reflections on music from childhood and a look at the role music helps to shape and define emerging cultures.

Enjoy the tunes that helped inspire the week!

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