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

My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop
I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles
Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael
-Excursions, ATCQ

The role of elders is heard through Michael Rapaport’s “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest.” In his director’s statement, Rapaport writes: “For me A Tribe Called Quest meant the same thing as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones.” During the film, Q-Tip calls on a childhood icon (“Like Stevie said, ‘If you believe in things that you don’t understand then you suffer.'”) to respond to talk of a “sophomore slump,” before the release of Low End Theory.

What is the role of elders in a community? Like the particular place, elders help create the context for the community. ATCQ connected histories left in the past and presented them for a new era. They inspire confidence to live more authentically through their action and stories. Tribe directly benefited from local artists like Kool DJ Red Alert and felt a responsibility to present and promote worthwhile ideas. Q-Tip describes this process: “It was just a thing that was going on in the culture and awareness, about identity, about coming out of the hood and being able to present ideas that were lofty.”

PHARELLE: Q-tip just picks the best loops, man. He’s just a great loop picker […] and we’re like all his sons. BLACK THOUGHT: Had it not been for their legacy, the roots would definitely be a different sort of band. I mean I don’t even know if we would of had the courage to be a band?

The idea of elders entered Tribe’s music on the opening track of the “Low End Theory.” Q-tip’s reflection on the continuum between jazz and hip hop.

And that line: ‘My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop/I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles.’ It was true based on the improvisation of jazz and sometimes the freestylin’ of hip hop. just being right there in the moment and just rhyming about something and changing a pattern and whatever and although it’s devoid of melody it still has patten and it’s still improvisation. And the same thing for jazz you know if someone is playing a solo and their improving and they be searching and finding something melodically whereas the MC’s searching and find something lyrically.

From the beginning, Elders were present to members of ATCQ. From public art in the neighborhood to old sounds from record stores and home collections, ATCQ represented the legacy of those who walked before them. From it, they created a local culture grounded in self knowledge, identity and expression.

Thursday: A Tribe Called Quest and a Culture of Self Knowledge, Identity and Expression.

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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