Beats, Rhymes and Life

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Beats, Rhymes and Life
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 30, 1996
StudioBattery Studios, New York, New York
A Tribe Called Quest chronology
Midnight Marauders
Beats, Rhymes and Life
The Love Movement
Singles from Beats, Rhymes and Life
  1. "1nce Again"
    Released: July 1, 1996
  2. "Stressed Out"
    Released: November 11, 1996

Beats, Rhymes and Life is the fourth studio album by American hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. Released on July 30, 1996, by Jive Records, it followed three years after the highly regarded and successful Midnight Marauders. Produced by The Ummah, the album is a departure from the joyful, positive vibe of the group's earlier albums and is regarded as their darkest album in content. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on October 27, 1998.


In September 1993, shortly after the recording of Midnight Marauders had concluded, Phife Dawg moved to Atlanta.[1][2] Along with Q-Tip's conversion to Islam the following year, the addition of Jay Dee to the group's new production team, The Ummah, and the enlistment of guest rapper Consequence, Q-Tip's cousin, the group dynamic changed drastically.[2][3][4] Phife Dawg later stated that "the chemistry was dead, shot", while Q-Tip felt that becoming a Muslim "made the atmosphere much more serious."[2][3]

Music and lyrics[edit]

For Beats, Rhymes and Life, The Ummah created a minimalist sound reminiscent of The Low End Theory, which Ali Shaheed Muhammad described as "nothing extravagant, nothing far out."[2][5] Miles Marshall Lewis of The Source praised The Ummah for being "the most proficient in the rap game at using samples as instruments in themselves."[6] Regarding Jay Dee's five contributions to the album, Q-Tip stated, "He would just send me the beats and then I would lay them."[7] One of his contributions, the lead single "1nce Again", was hailed as "one of the few successes" on the album and a "surprising R&B crossover."[5]

Lyrically, the group addresses "everything from O.J. to spirituality" and were recognized for the complexity of their messages.[5][8] However, they were criticized for sounding "bored", "confused, hostile, and occasionally paranoid."[2][5] In the song "Keeping It Moving", Q-Tip responds to the diss comments made about him in MC Hammer's songs "Break 'Em Off Somethin' Proper" and "Funky Headhunter", as well as Westside Connection's song "Cross 'Em out and Put a K".[9] In the first verse, he says that comments previously made about the West Coast were not intended to be a diss and that people should not misinterpret his lyrics.[9]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[10]
Entertainment WeeklyA[8]
Q4/5 stars[12]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[13]
The Source4/5[6]
Tom Hull – on the WebA−[15]
USA Today4/4 stars[16]

Beats, Rhymes and Life debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), on October 27, 1998, with shipments of one million copies in the United States, becoming the group's most commercially successful album.[2]

The album received mostly positive reviews from music critics. Ernest Hardy of Rolling Stone called it "near-flawless", while commending The Ummah for their "irresistible" production, and the group for "spinning universal themes from an Afrocentric loom, with positivity balanced against subtly subversive street reporting."[13] Entertainment Weekly's Cheo Tyehimba described it as "the return of playful yet potent hip-hop" and praised the "trademark originality" of the group's lyrics.[8] Will Hermes of Spin credited the group for performing "with a sleight of hand that lets them get intelligent without ruining the party", however, he felt that "over the three fallow years since the group's last record, they've been dealing with a real crisis of musical faith."[14] Robert Christgau gave the album a three-star honorable mention in his consumer guide for The Village Voice, noting that the group fights "sensationalist obscurity with philosophic subtlety", which he believed was ineffective. Christgau highlighted "Jam", "Crew" and "The Hop" as standout tracks.[17]

In the 5th edition of his Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Colin Larkin praised the group's "highly evolved" lyrics and lauded them for "addressing issues with greater philosophy than the crude banter of their past recordings."[10] Despite calling the album "the group's most disappointing listen", John Bush of AllMusic credited it as "a dedication to the streets and the hip-hop underground."[5][18]

Beats, Rhymes and Life was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album and "1nce Again" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, presented at the 39th Grammy Awards in 1997.[18]

Track listing[edit]

1."Phony Rappers"Kamaal Fareed, Malik Taylor, Dexter Mills Jr.3:35
2."Get a Hold"Fareed, James Yancey3:35
3."Motivators"Fareed, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Taylor, Mills3:20
4."Jam"Fareed, Taylor, Mills4:38
5."Crew"Fareed, Muhammad1:58
6."The Pressure"Fareed, Muhammad, Taylor3:02
7."1nce Again" (featuring Tammy Lucas)Fareed, Muhammad, Taylor, Yancey, Steve Swallow3:49
8."Mind Power"Fareed, Muhammad, Taylor, Mills3:55
9."The Hop"Fareed, Taylor, Rashad Smith3:27
10."Keeping It Moving"Fareed, Yancey3:38
11."Baby Phife's Return"Fareed, Taylor3:18
13."What Really Goes On"Fareed, Leroy Bonner, Greg Webster, Andrew Noland, Marshall Jones, Ralph Middlebrooks, Walter Morrison, Marvin Pierce, Bruce Napier3:23
14."Word Play"Fareed, Taylor, Mills, Yancey2:59
15."Stressed Out" (featuring Faith Evans)Fareed, Muhammad, Mills, Faith Evans, Yancey, Gary Taylor4:57
Total length:51:18
Sample credits[19]


Credits are adapted from AllMusic.[21]

  • Consequence – composer, guest artist, vocals
  • Tom Coyne – mastering
  • Faith Evans – composer, featured artist
  • Tammy Lucas – featured artist
  • Ali Shaheed Muhammad – composer, DJ
  • Pasemaster Mase – scratching (track 9)
  • Phife Dawg – composer, vocals
  • Bob Power – mixing
  • Q-Tip – composer, vocals
  • Tony Smalios – mixing
  • Rashad Smith – producer
  • A Tribe Called Quest – primary artist
  • The Ummah – mixing, producer
  • James Yancey (Jay Dee) – composer

Charts and certifications[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rapaport, Michael. "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest". Sony Pictures Classics. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Beats, Rhymes And Life was A Tribe Called Quest’s commercial peak—and first misstep. The A.V. Club. Accessed on February 12, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Beats, Rhymes and Life--A Tribe Called Quest (1996). Vibe. Accessed on February 12, 2018.
  4. ^ Cowie, Del F. (February 2008). "A Tribe Called Quest - Verses from the Abstract". Exclaim!. Accessed on February 12, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Bush, John. "Beats, Rhymes and Life – A Tribe Called Quest". AllMusic. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Lewis, Miles Marshall (September 1996). "A Tribe Called Quest: Beats, Rhymes and Life". The Source (84): 145.
  7. ^ Q-Tip Red Bull Music Academy. Accessed on February 12, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Tyehimba, Cheo (August 9, 1996). "Beats, Rhymes and Life". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Exclusive: Q-Tip Interview. Retrieved on 2017-04-08.
  10. ^ a b Larkin, Colin (2011). "A Tribe Called Quest". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  11. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest: Beats, Rhymes and Life". NME: 51. August 1, 1996.
  12. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest: Beats, Rhymes and Life". Q (121): 172. October 1996.
  13. ^ a b Hardy, Ernest (August 8, 1996). "Beats, Rhymes and Life". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Hermes, Will (September 1996). "A Tribe Called Quest: Beats, Rhymes and Life". Spin. 12 (6): 149–50. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  15. ^ Hull, Tom (June 13, 2015). "Rhapsody Streamnotes: June 13, 2015". Tom Hull – on the Web. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
  16. ^ Jones, Steve (July 30, 1996). "A Tribe Called Quest, Beats, Rhymes and Life". USA Today. Archived from the original on December 28, 1996. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  17. ^ Christgau, Robert (September 17, 1996). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
  18. ^ a b Bush, John. A Tribe Called Quest - Biography by John Bush. AllMusic. Accessed on February 12, 2018.
  19. ^ "Beats, Rhymes and Life by a Tribe Called Quest: Album Samples, Covers and Remixes". WhoSampled.
  20. ^ "The Hop by a Tribe Called Quest on WhoSampled". WhoSampled.
  21. ^ Beats, Rhymes and Life – Credits. AllMusic. Accessed on February 12, 2018.
  22. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 8502". RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  23. ^ " – A Tribe Called Quest – Beats Rhymes & Life". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  24. ^ " – A Tribe Called Quest – Beats Rhymes & Life". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  25. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  26. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  27. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  28. ^ "Top Billboard 200 Albums – Year-End 1996". Billboard. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  29. ^ "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums – Year-End 1996". Billboard. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  30. ^ "Canadian album certifications – A Tribe Called Quest – Beats, Rhymes and Life". Music Canada.
  31. ^ "American album certifications – A Tribe Called Quest". Recording Industry Association of America.

External links[edit]