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People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

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People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 10, 1990[1]
StudioCalliope Studios, Battery Studios (New York City, New York)
LabelJive, RCA Records
ProducerA Tribe Called Quest
A Tribe Called Quest chronology
People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
The Low End Theory
Singles from People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
  1. "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo"
    Released: April 11, 1990
  2. "Bonita Applebum"
    Released: July 5, 1990
  3. "Can I Kick It?"
    Released: October 29, 1990

People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is the debut studio album by American hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, released on April 10, 1990[1] on Jive Records. After forming the Native Tongues collective and collaborating on several projects, A Tribe Called Quest began recording sessions for People's Instinctive Travels in late 1989 at Calliope Studios with completion reached in early 1990. The album's laid back production encompassed a diverse range of samples which functioned as a template for the group's unorthodox lyrics.

People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was met with acclaim from professional music critics and the hip hop community on release, and was eventually certified gold in the United States. Its recognition has extended over the years as it is widely regarded as a central album in alternative hip hop with its unconventional production and lyricism. It is also credited for influencing many artists in both hip hop and R&B. In a commemorative article for XXL, Michael Blair wrote that "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was immensely groundbreaking, and will eternally maintain its relevance within the culture and construction of hip-hop".


A Tribe Called Quest formed in Queens, New York, in 1985.[5] After establishing a friendship with hip-hop act Jungle Brothers, both groups formed a collective dubbed Native Tongues, which also included De La Soul.[5]

Several years prior to recording People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, group member Q-Tip created much of the album's production on pause tapes when he was in the 10th grade.[6] He would have his first studio experience while recording with Jungle Brothers on their debut album Straight out the Jungle (1988).[7] Although this was a learning experience,[7] he acquired more recording and producing knowledge being present at all of De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising (1989) sessions.[8] Recording engineer Shane Faber taught Q-Tip how to use equipment such as the E-mu SP-1200 and Akai S950 samplers, and soon-after, renowned producer Large Professor taught him how to use other equipment, for which he would expand upon on People's Instinctive Travels.[9]

Initially, record labels would not sign A Tribe Called Quest due to their unconventional image and sound,[10] but took interest after the success of 3 Feet High and Rising, which featured appearances from Q-Tip.[9] The group hired Kool DJ Red Alert as their manager, and after shopping their demo to several major labels, they signed a contract with Jive Records in 1989.[9]


Recording for the album began in late 1989, and finished three months later in early 1990,[11] with "Pubic Enemy" and "Bonita Applebum" as the first tracks recorded.[10]

The group chose Calliope Studios as their primary studio, as it was renowned to promote artistic freedom.[10] Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah and Prince Paul with De La Soul and Stetsasonic, were all recording new music in separate rooms while A Tribe Called Quest recorded People's Instinctive Travels.[10] Q-Tip later commented, "It was exciting. We were kinda left to our own devices. It was just a great environment, conductive for creating. We didn't have cell phones, we didn't have the internet, we didn't have a bunch of things to tear at us. When we got to the studio, the specific job was to make music. There was no TV in there. It was all instruments and speakers. It was just music."[10]

Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad would listen to records several seconds at a time, and re-work them in relationship with other records that would fit.[10] Ali played all live instruments, DJ scratches and programming, while Q-Tip handled everything else with production, including sampling and mixing.[12]

Although claiming that "we all helped put the album together", Q-Tip was the only group member present at every recording session.[9] Group member Phife Dawg later admitted, "I was being ignorant on that first album, that's why I was only on a couple of tracks. I was hardly around. I would have rather hung out with my boys on the street and got my hustle on rather than gone in the studio. I wasn't even on the contract for the first album. I was thinking me and Jarobi were more like back-ups for Tip and Ali, but Tip and Ali really wanted me to come through and do my thing".[9][13]

Music and lyrics[edit]

People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm has been described as "a celebration of bohemia, psychedelia and vagabondia",[10] as well as "laid back".[5] The Los Angeles Times described the album as consisting of "mostly happy hip-hop, featuring gently humorous, casual, conversational raps".[14] Michael Blair from XXL wrote that "the innovative production on this album created an optimal platform for the group's wildly inventive relationship with their words. From a lyrical standpoint, Tribe was both sophisticated and playful in the same breath".[15]

Much of the musical landscape on the album consisted of background noises such as a child crying, frogs and Hawaiian strings.[5] The jazz, R&B and rock samples that were used were from artists that most hip-hop producers of the time ignored, or who were unfamiliar with. For the known artists that were sampled, Q-Tip used breaks that were unique for those artists, which turned out to be highly influential for hip-hop production.[5][10] Ian McCann from NME stated "They break beats from anywhere they want ... and deliver them in an easy, totally sympathetic setting."[16] Entertainment Weekly's Greg Sandow said the album "has a casual sound, something like laid-back jazz".[17]

Regarding the album's lyrics, Kris Ex from Pitchfork said "The rhymes here are at once conversational and repressed, the topics concurrently large and small. The lyrics are 25 years old. But were they released today they'd seem right on time."[18]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[20]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[17]
Rolling Stone[21]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[22]
The Source5/5[23]
The Village VoiceB+[25]

People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was met with widespread acclaim from critics. Ian McCann from NME wrote that "A Tribe Called Quest put no feet in the wrong place here. This is not rap, it's near perfection".[16] Entertainment Weekly's Greg Sandow commented that on the album, rather than "defining Afrocentric living", the group "more or less exemplifies it with no fuss at all".[17] Robert Tanzilo from Chicago Tribune stated that the album "avoids the gimmickry and circus atmosphere" of the group's contemporaries, while "focusing solely on the music".[20]

Writing for Los Angeles Times, Dennis Hunt called the album "fascinating" and wrote "These songs lope along in a quirkly, jazz-like pace. They're intriguingly non-linear and quite provocative, even though their meaning is somewhat elusive".[14] In an enthusiastic review, The Source gave it the first "five-mic" rating in the magazine's history,[18] and called it a "completely musical and spiritual approach to hip-hop," as well as "a voyage to the land of positive vibrations, and each cut is a new experience".[23] Chuck Eddy from Rolling Stone stated "the real pleasure on People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm comes from a detailed mesh of instruments and incidental sounds", but went on to say "the rappers of A Tribe Called Quest tend to mumble in understated monotones that feel self-satisfied, even bored".[21]


John Bush of AllMusic said "Restless and ceaselessly imaginative, Tribe perhaps experimented too much on their debut, but they succeeded at much of it, certainly enough to show much promise as a new decade dawned".[19] Spin magazine wrote "following in the ground-breaking footsteps of their Native Tongues brethren, Tribe's laid-back debut had no heavy handed political or battle raps, just youthful exuberance and playfully goofy lyrics.[24] While praising the album's production and lyricism, Pitchfork's Kris Ex called it "clean and focused", and credited it for showcasing the group as "whimsical yet grounded in reality".[18] He went on to write "all these many years later People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is more than a nostalgia artifact. It's a worthy listen, not because of what it was, but because of what it is".[18] Dave Heaton of PopMatters called the album "brilliant" and said it was "an introduction to Q-Tip's talent."[26] In his 5th edition of Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Colin Larkin rated the album three stars and called it "eclectic and self-consciously jokey".[27]


Since its release, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm has been included on numerous "best of" lists compiled by music writers and journalists. The following information is adapted from Acclaimed Music.[28]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Cameron Adams Australia 100 Must Have Albums 2013 11–100
Best Germany The Best Albums of the Year 1990 4
Hervé Bourhis France 555 Records 2007 *
Christophe Brault France Top 20 Albums by Year 1964–2004 2006 13
Robert Dimery USA 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[29] 2005 *
Ego Trip United States Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year 1980–98 1999 9
Entertainment Weekly USA The 100 Best Albums from 1983 to 2008 2008 18
The Face UK Best Albums of the Year 1990 3
Les Inrockuptibles France 50 Years of Rock'n'Roll[30] 2004 *
Les Inrockuptibles France The 100 Best Albums 1986–1996[30] 1996 60
Mixmag UK The 100 Best Dance Albums of All Time 1996 36
Mucchio Selvaggio Italy 100 Best Albums by Decade 2002 21–50
NME UK Best Albums of the Year 1990 7
NME UK The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 2013 420
Pop Sweden The World's 100 Best Albums + 300 Complements 1994 101
Record Collector UK 10 Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st Century 2000 *
Rock & Folk France The 250 Best Albums from 1966–1991 1991 *
Rockdelux Spain The Best Albums of the Year 1990 23
Select UK The Best Albums of the Year 1990 6
Sounds UK The Best Albums of the Year 1990 37
The Source USA 100 Best Rap Albums of All Time 1998 *
Spex Germany The Best Albums of the Year 1990 3
Technikart France 50 Albums from the Last 10 Years 1997 *
Gilles Verlant France 300+ Best Albums in the History of Rock 2013 *
The Village Voice USA Best Albums of the Year 1990 18
XXL USA 40 Years of Hip-Hop: Top 5 Albums by Year 2014 *
Zundfunk Germany The Best Albums of the 90s 2000 24
(*) designates lists that are unordered.


On several occasions acclaimed producer and vocalist Pharrell Williams has spoken on the album's influence.

People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm has been recognized for widening hip-hop's vocabulary, as well as instrumentation and samples within hip-hop music.[10] It has also been recognized for influencing a wide range of acclaimed hip-hop and R&B artists, including Common, D'Angelo, Digable Planets, Erykah Badu, Fugees, J Dilla, Kendrick Lamar, Mos Def, Outkast, Scarface, and Kanye West.[18][10][31] Pharrell Williams stated "I listened to 'Bonita' everyday. I'd never heard anything like that in my life. That's where I changed".[32] On another occasion, Williams explained that People's Instinctive Travels "caused a turning point in my life, which made me see that music was art."[33]

John Bush of AllMusic called People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm "the quiet beginning of a revolution in non-commercial hip-hop."[19] Pitchfork's Kris Ex stated that with the album the group "created and refined a template for '90s hip-hop that was street-astute, worldly, and more inspirational than aspirational".[18] In a commemorative article for XXL, Michael Blair wrote "What A Tribe Called Quest ultimately became the pioneers of, and was on full display throughout the production on their debut album, was a certain proficiency in illustrating and honoring a diverse array of genres that preceded them. In what is mostly attributed to Q-Tip's deep appreciation and understanding of those definitive genres, Tribe's sound was perpetually laced with elements of Jazz, Soul, R&B, and Funk". Blair concluded that "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was immensely groundbreaking, and will eternally maintain its relevance within the culture and construction of hip-hop".[15]

Hip-hop journalist Harry Allen described the album as a turning point in hip-hop where artists did not have to be "tough". A Tribe Called Quest member Ali Shaheed Muhammad further elaborated that "LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, N.W.A, even Public Enemy, had a tough guy image. It was this bravado at the time that all the hip-hop artists had. People's Instinctive Travels wasn't any of that. We weren't trying to be tough guys. It was about having fun, being lighthearted, being witty, being poetic. Just being good with one another. That's what we presented. Just be. Just exist. Be comfortable in your own skin. People's Instinctive Travels was about celebrating you, whoever you are".[10]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written and produced by A Tribe Called Quest. Credits from album liner notes.[34]

1."Push it Along"7:42
2."Luck of Lucien"4:32
3."After Hours"4:39
5."I Left My Wallet in El Segundo"4:06
6."Pubic Enemy"3:45
7."Bonita Applebum"3:50
8."Can I Kick It?"4:11
9."Youthful Expression"4:52
10."Rhythm (Devoted to the Art of Moving Butts)"4:01
11."Mr. Muhammad"3:33
12."Ham 'n' Eggs"5:27
13."Go Ahead in the Rain"3:54
14."Description of a Fool"5:41
Total length:64:15
25th Anniversary bonus tracks
15."Footprints (CeeLo Green Remix)" (featuring CeeLo Green)5:08
16."Bonita Applebum (Pharrell Williams Remix)"3:53
17."Can I Kick It? (J. Cole Remix)"2:49
Partial sample credits




Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[39] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b "Rewind: A Tribe Called Quest's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm". TIDAL. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  2. ^ Gale, Alex (April 11, 2012). "The Evolution of Q-Tip". Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  3. ^ McStarkey, Mick (April 2021). "What's that sound? The Frogs in A Tribe Called Quest's 'After Hours'". Far Out. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  4. ^ Harrington, Richard (December 5, 1999). "A Tribe and True Approach". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e Lewis, Miles (October 1998). "After the Love is Gone". The Source. L. Londell McMillan.
  6. ^ Q-Tip Made Most Of "People's Instinctive Travels" On Pause-Tapes When He Was 16 Medium. Accessed on March 28, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Coleman 2007, p. 436.
  8. ^ Coleman 2007, p. 438.
  9. ^ a b c d e Coleman 2007, p. 439.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Allen, Harry (November 13, 2015). People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm 25 Anniversary Edition (liner notes) (Media notes).
  11. ^ Coleman 2007, p. 441.
  12. ^ Coleman 2007, p. 439-440.
  13. ^ Coleman 2007, p. 440.
  14. ^ a b Hunt, Dennis (March 6, 1990). "A Tribe Called Quest 'People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm', Jive/RCA". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Today in Hip-Hop: A Tribe Called Quest Drops 'People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm' - XXL". XXL. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  16. ^ a b c McCann, Ian (May 5, 1990). "A Tribe Called Quest – People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths of Rhythm". NME. Archived from the original on October 12, 2000. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  17. ^ a b c Sandow, Greg (March 30, 1990). "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Ex, Kris (November 13, 2015). "A Tribe Called Quest: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  19. ^ a b c Bush, John. "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm – A Tribe Called Quest". AllMusic. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  20. ^ a b Tanzilo, Robert (April 26, 1990). "A Tribe Called Quest: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (Jive)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  21. ^ a b Eddy, Chuck (April 19, 1990). "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  22. ^ Considine & Randall 2004, p. 823.
  23. ^ a b "A Tribe Called Quest: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm". The Source. 3 (4). 1990. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  24. ^ a b Golianopoulos, Thomas (August 2008). "Discography: Q-Tip". Spin. 24 (8): 92. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  25. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 31, 1990). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  26. ^ Heaton, Dave. "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm 25th Anniversary Edition". PopMatters. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  27. ^ Larkin 2007, p. 29.
  28. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest People's Instinctive Travels by Paths and Rhythms". Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  29. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  30. ^ a b "Les 100 albums des années 1986 - 1996". Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  31. ^ Pearce, Sheldon. "Scarface on the Music That Made Him". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  32. ^ McStarkey, Mick (2021). What's That Sound? A Tribe Called Quest. Far Out Magazine.
  33. ^ Scaggs, Austin (November 17, 2005). "Q&A: Pharrell Williams". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Archived from the original on February 20, 2008. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Taylor, Shawn (2007). A Tribe Called Quest's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Bloomsbury. pp. 20–30. ISBN 1441134344.
  35. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  36. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  37. ^ "A Tribe Called Quest Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  38. ^ "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums – Year-End 1990". Billboard. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  39. ^ "American album certifications – A Tribe Called Quest – People's Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm". Recording Industry Association of America.


External links[edit]