13. A Tribe Called Quest, Beats, Rhymes, & Life (1996)
Label: Jive/BMG Records Worst Song: "Stressed Out" f/ Faith Evans
OUT OF STEPBAND BEEF
We gotta start by saying, hindsight being 20/20, this album is actually pretty good. However, that doesn't negate the fact that at the time of it's release B, R, & L was a massive let down for fans of ATCQ. After dropping three classic albums—1990's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, 1991's The Low End Theory, and 1993's Midnight Marauders—the stakes were at an all-time high. Could they continue to outdo themselves? Unfortunately, no. It seems that internal tensions that had been brewing for years boiled over, and the cracks became evident to the public as Q-Tip appeared, from the outside, to almost have replaced Phife and Ali with his cousin Consequence and the then up and coming Detroit producer Jay Dee.
The result was a complete departure, sonically, as the three moved from infectious sample collages that defined their first three efforts to the spacey and sublime sound of the Ummah (the name of Tip & Jay's collective productions). Combine that with more R&B hooks than on any previous Tribe album, and a third MC in Cons who jockeyed for attention while Phife passive-aggressively phoned in his verses, and you had the record that signaled, although we didn't know it yet, the end of ATCQ.