In the world of hip hop, The Source magazine was once a major authority, and its coveted “five-mics” rating was the ultimate stamp of approval for an album.
In 1990, A Tribe Called Quest’s debut release, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, became the first album to receive this prestigious rating, and it quickly established the group as one of the most important and innovative acts in the genre.
The significance of this achievement cannot be overstated. At the time, hip hop was still a relatively new genre, and many people were skeptical of its artistic value. The Source’s endorsement of A Tribe Called Quest’s debut helped to legitimize hip hop as a genre and to establish the magazine as a major voice in the hip hop community.
But beyond its cultural significance, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is a truly remarkable album that deserves to be celebrated on its own merits. The album features a unique blend of jazz, funk, and soul influences, and it was notable for its laid-back, relaxed vibe.
This approach was a departure from the more aggressive, hard-hitting sound that was prevalent in the hip hop scene at the time, and it helped to establish A Tribe Called Quest as a group that was unafraid to take creative risks. In an interview with Chairman Mao for Red Bull Music Academy, Tip explained the group’s artistic motivations heading into their debut album.
Q-Tip: I guess the thought process was, I always wanted to make something as close to like The Beatles, or Earth, Wind & Fire, or Sly [Stone] as possible for hip-hop. You know what I mean? I felt like that that first album is kinda representative of that kind of energy. And to really not purposefully try to fit into something. Just be yourself. You know what I mean? And just, you know, be open. I think that first album was about those things, really.Q-Tip | Red Bull Music Academy
In addition to its innovative sound, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was also praised for its thought-provoking lyrics, with the album tackling a wide range of topics, from racism and discrimination to love and relationships. This combination of innovative beats and intelligent lyrics helped to establish A Tribe Called Quest as one of the most important and influential groups in the history of hip hop.
Over the years, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm has remained a classic album within the hip hop community. Its unique sound and thought-provoking lyrics have influenced countless other artists, and it remains a testament to the group’s innovative spirit and creative vision.
In many ways, A Tribe Called Quest paved the way for the future of hip hop, and their influence can still be heard in the genre today in artists like Kanye, Pharrell and Tyler, the Creator. The fact that their debut album was the first to receive The Source’s “five-mics” rating is a testament to their talent and the impact they had on the hip hop community.
Even three decades later, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm remains one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time that deserves to be forever celebrated for its many contributions to the genre.