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A Tribe Called Quest Beats, Rhymes and Life (1998)


Plenty of changes arrived when A Tribe Called Quest released their fourth album, Beats, Rhymes and Life, in July 1996. For one, Q-Tip's cousin, Consequence, became involved on the lyrical side of things, showing up with rhymes on four of the 15 songs. Additionally, this was their first record produced by the newly-founded Ummah crew, which featured Tribe's Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad working with a then-unknown Jay Dee (aka J Dilla). Additionally, they would forego any collaborations with outside MCs, some of whom had helped shape standout cuts on previous albums.

The resulting product was the group's darkest release to date. This was ever-present in the production shaped by Jay Dee's approach, which was jazz-indebted but more liquid and free-flowing. This also lent itself to less instantly gratifying singles, though you can't deny the pure awesomeness of "1nce Again," "Stressed Out," and "What Really Goes On." They might have been faulted for their changes at the time but, if nothing else, Tribe helped shape the style of one of hip-hop's finest producers.

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