Solo Albums: n/a
Group Albums: People's Instinctive Travel's and the Paths of Rhythm (1990), The Low End Theory (1991), Midnight Marauders (1993)
Biggest Hits: "Bonita Applebum" (1990), "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" (1990), "Can I Kick It?" (1991), "Check the Rhime" (1991), "Scenario" f/ Leaders of the New School (1992)
"Q-Tip is my title, I don't think that it's vital/For me to be your idol, but dig this recital." Those are the first lines delivered by Q-Tip on A Tribe Called Quest's 1990's People's Instinctive Travels and The Paths of Rhythm, a substantial name for a substantial debut. And even from the start, the 20-year-old Queens MC knew his lyrics would speak for him-and idolatry would follow regardless.
Part of the Native Tongues movement that included NYC's Jungle Brothers and Long Island's De La Soul (who released their debuts in 1988 and 1989 respectively), A Tribe Called Quest wasn't quite as serious as the former and not quite as quirky as the latter, focusing instead on real-life matters that were almost universally relatable. This was hip-hop in its fully mature stage just a decade in.
And while Tribe was a group, it was Q-Tip who carried them through that first album. In fact, even as Phife Dawg took a larger role as they delivered their first three classic LPs—People's Instinctive Travels, The Low End Theory, and Midnight Marauders—Phife would stick primarily to the volatile braggadocio while Tip provided the overwhelming steadiness that kept the group firmly grounded. On 1991's masterpiece The Low End Theory, Q-Tip kicked things off with a verse that explained his roots better than any biographer:
Back in the days when I was a teenager
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find the Abstract listening to hip hop
My pops used to say, it reminded him of bebop
I said, well daddy don't you know that things go in cycles
Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael
Its all expected, things are for the looking
If you got the money, Quest is for the booking
From matters weighty ("Sucka Niggas") to not-so-weighty ("I Left My Wallet in El Segundo"), Tip managed to keep his wordplay nimble and his tone level, not unlike the Harmon mute era Miles Davis, as Phife gleefully filled the wilder John Coltrane role. When they recruited legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter to play on The Low End Theory's "Verses From the Abstract," Carter wanted assurances that there wouldn't be any profanity on the record. He needn't have worried—Tip didn't need them to make an impact. — Russ Bengtson