Album: Beats, Rhymes and Life

For A Tribe Called Quest, 1996 was an important year. Three years had passed since the release of 1993's Midnight Marauders, arguably the best album from the jazzy New York-based collective in an already-historic career. Getting back in the studio to follow-up such a masterpiece? That’s a grip of pressure to put on anyone, but judging by “1nce Again,” it didn’t feel like Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali were feeling it. Their sound was a bit crisper, thanks to the addition of the late, great Jay Dee on production (his first for the crew), but his swing fit their sample-heavy sound like a glove, allowing Phife and Tip to focus their pens properly. While the full project was Tribe’s darkest release at the time (no doubt mirroring the inner conflicts they were going through at the time), “1nce Again” was one of the brightest—and best—from the album. —khal