Just when I thought I couldn’t love Feel Ghood Music any more, they go and nearly make a girl break down and cry. To celebrate the release of the first A Tribe Called Quest full-length album in seventeen years, what they’re proclaiming to be their last, MFBTY, Ann One, and newly signed artist Junoflo gave tribute by creating their own remix to ATCQ classic “Check the Rhime.”
The single’s cover is a photomanipulation of the album cover of Midnight Marauders, already striking a nostalgic cord with me. But what actually had me near tears was just how much respect and absolute adulation for the legendary group. The death of Phife Dawg hit fans of ATCQ really hard, even those who may not be ardent fans of hip-hop felt the ripple of his loss, and to just hear his name in Junoflo’s verse… I almost lost all composure right there. Junoflo for president indeed.
But it’s more than just an homage. This remix is a love letter to a group who’s transcended rap and made music that brought the genre back to its roots–jazz and blues. With the melodic bet of Rotary Connection driving the original track we remember and sit blissfully in our memories of that fine time when hip-hop was lush, full of love sounds and mellow grooves. Then when Tasha explodes on the mic with her verse, giving nods to Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, Run DMC, and NWA, we get the twining riff of another classic, The Fugees’s rendition of Roberta Flack classic “Killing Me Softly.” Ann One adds her soft coo in the space where Q-Tip and Phife have their exchange, then Bizzy just slides into the song as if he were part of its original make up. His flow and the way he punctuates many of the lines is reminiscent of the original composition, bringing to mind the eloquence of the piece. Then JK goes further and actually riffs over Fife’s verse, leading in with, “Well here’s a funky introduction to Seo Jung-kwon,” and I about lost the plot.
Understand, we’re not just getting a tribute of a popular song here. What fans of hip-hop are being gifted is a small peek into the heart of the genre itself, a love note to ’90s-era hip-hop and one of the pioneers of the jazz-driven earth tones that defined a new school of thought for hip-hop that reached back to its foundations and gave it light and breath. As we’re about to say good-bye to A Tribe Called Quest, it’s a wonderful feeling to find artists who took a moment to just say thank you.