Misogyny laden Twitter rants, tone-deaf claims and a Kardashian affiliation have left me disenchanted with Kanye West. Ten years ago, I would have made no objection to his rap gawd status. Aspirational lyrics, pristine visuals and the “can’t tell me nothing” bravado all primed my fandom. In his wee stardom, West was given platforms for the audiences to get to know the man behind “Through the Wire.” One of those platforms was MTV’s The Life & Rhyme’s of Kanye West, in which he mimed and performed the songs that influenced his artistry.
He started with “Check The Rhime” by A Tribe Called Quest. His enthused dedication to the track lasted about 15 seconds, but his reaction coupled with the audiences’ response led me to a LimeWire haul of any and everything ATCQ adjacent.
With grounded lyricism and funky production, ATCQ’s music became a mainstay on my MySpace page. I positioned Q-Tip as a forever crush. Phife Dawg’s lyrics shifted from clever lines to stick in an “About Me” section to lyrics essential to getting through the melancholia of high school.
Nearly two weeks ago, Phife Dawg passed away. As the news reached my Twitter feed, I was transported back to that early high school discovery. I remembered burning “Electric Relaxation” to a blank CD-R before I got my first IPod. I remembered the first time I proclaimed that I couldn’t date a guy if he didn’t appreciate ATCQ. I remembered how this group made hip-hop more legible for me. I remembered how cool I felt when I memorized the bars from “Bonita Applebum.” I remembered the warmth of the jazz influences on Q-Tip’s productions. I remembered the lyrics that helped color my world.
I hate to say this and he’ll love that I said this but, thank you Kanye.
My Favorite ATCQ Story
For Malik. Rest in Power.