In 1998, A Tribe Called Quest released their fifth studio album, The Love Movement, which would be the last album released during group member Phife Dawg’s lifetime.
The album, a concept record exploring the lyrical theme of love, featured minimalist R&B and jazz-oriented production by The Ummah – a production crew composed of members Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and J Dilla – and spawned the singles “Find a Way” and “Like It Like That.” However, few rap fans know that one of the tracks on the album, “The Love,” was initially intended for a completely different artist – The Notorious B.I.G.
The story of “The Love” begins in 1997 when Tip produced the beat for the Brooklyn rapper’s upcoming Life After Death. According to a Vibe interview with the Tribe frontman, Biggie enjoyed the beat when it was played for him, but unfortunately, Life After Death had already been completed.
Q-Tip: When I did ‘The Love’ it just felt like the song title, it felt like true love. Originally, the song was supposed to be a track for Biggie. I did that one for him for his last album Life After Death. I came through to the studio to let him listen to the track and Biggie was like, ‘Damn B, I finished the album already. But let me hear it anyway; maybe I can still fuck with it.’ So I played it for him and Biggie was really feeling it. He told me, ‘Damn, I wish I could throw that song on there. But we finished the album, look at all these champagne bottles around.’ Big was so funny.Full Clip: Q-Tip Runs Down His Music Catalogue Ft. Tribe, De La Soul, Nas, Biggie, The Roots, Dilla & More! | Vibe
Eventually, the beat found its way onto The Love Movement, which would become their final album before the group’s breakup. The announcement of their disbandment came just a month before the album’s release, with the group citing frustration with their label, Jive Records, as a significant factor. Despite the surrounding tensions and step down from their previous classics – most notably The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders – The Love Movement is an underrated masterpiece that is just another example of why A Tribe Called Quest is the greatest hip hop group of all time.