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Beats, Rhymes and Life, the ’96 release is the fourth in the A TRIBE CALLED QUEST discography. In my opinion, obviously, the best. Q-Tip (Kamal Fareed), rapper Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor), and DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad have outdone themselves. Now, before I get started, just a note: I am not try to set trends or go against mainstream criticism or follow any type of bandwagon. I just play it as it is – which, in this case, is the way my opinion tilts.
This album, more contemplative than previous and post recordings, proves its worth. It’s amazing, from PHONY RAPPERS, the introductory track, to STRESSED OUT, the closing one. I mean, it carries itself elegantly, moves along with grace and concern. Top beats, very deep and poignant, accompanied by fervent basslines – all part of the QUEST’S repertoire -, and very smart lyrics. It seems to sting, to build up, but as you wander through the music, you realise it jumps and slows and twists and turns.
In comparison to the critic’s favourite, THE LOW END THEORY, this album has a different recipe. It’s a sort of subtler, more serious, beats. Intelligent rhymes and melancholy provide the spirit for this powerful recording. And, come to think of it, I think powerfull is the adequate term to qualify this piece of work.
To the tunes: My favourite is KEEPING IT MOVING – “something for your earholes, so you can clean them shits out…” -, can you get a better introduction???!!! Great!!! Just brilliant. 1NCE AGAIN is right up there. So much love, so much passion. This kind of gray, murky, rainy day song is marvellous. The big, big beats and the piao, just audible, in the background is fantastic. Of course, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg tear it up with their lyrics. It’s a lot like a love-hate relationship. The beautiful, tender female voice in the chorus together with the composition, goes well with some acid rhymes.
Last, but not at all least, there’s JAM. Yeah, I guess I did pick the more upbeat tunes. Hey, like I said before, it’s just me. Great little guitar riff. “It was friday afternoon in the middle of june…” . I’m off…

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