A Tribe Called Quest’s iconic track “Can I Kick It?” is a classic hip-hop track and a fan favourite. However, it may come as a surprise that the group never actually made any money from the song.
The song, which was released as the third single from their debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, in 1990, is built around several samples, most notably the bassline from Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” When the group approached Reed for permission to use the sample, he agreed, but on one condition – he would receive all of the royalties and publishing rights.
According to the late Phife Dawg, the group never saw any money from the song, with Reed claiming all of the profits. However, Phife did not hold any ill will towards Reed, stating that “it’s his art; it’s his work. He could have easily said no. There could have easily been no ‘Can I Kick It?’ So you take the good with the bad. And the good is, we didn’t get sued. We just didn’t get anything from it.”
Despite not receiving any money from the song, “Can I Kick It?” has become one of the group’s signature tracks and is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip hop songs of all time. The song’s use of samples from a variety of different sources, including Lou Reed, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Sergei Prokofiev, and Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, helped to establish A Tribe Called Quest’s unique sound and approach to hip hop production on their groundbreaking debut album.
Despite not making any money from “Can I Kick It?”, A Tribe Called Quest’s influence on hip hop, as arguably the greatest rap group ever, is undeniable. The group’s innovative use of sampling, combined with their laid-back, jazzy approach to production, helped to shape the sound of hip-hop in the early 90s and beyond. While they may not have profited from one of their most popular songs, their impact on the culture as a whole cannot be overstated.