All pretty good things come to an end, and that includes my reviews of each of A Tribe Called Quest’s studio albums. I will end this nice little segment with my take on Tribe’s last studio release, The Love Movement. It was announced before the release of this album that Tribe would break up. A difference in artistic interests, health concerns and some possible feuding with Jive Records were thought to contribute to the group’s split.
The Love Movement, released September 29, 1998 on Jive Records, was similar to Beats, Rhymes, Life in terms of its sound. The music production collective, The Ummah, was responsible for producing all 15 tracks on The Love Movement. Critics offered mostly positive reviews of Tribe’s last album release, noting that it sounded lighter than the trio’s last effort. However, those who loved Beats, Rhymes, Life wanted more of the same, and the sort of carefree sound and tone of The Love Movement didn’t give them that. A bonus disc containing six songs was included with the album, which was both gratifying and frustrating for their fans. The Love Movement was certified gold on November 1, 1998.
ATCQ’s final studio album begins with “Starts Up,” a simple song that features Q-Tip dropping verses over even simpler, thumping production. Luckily, the second song of the album rescued the mediocrity of the first.
“Find A Way” is the second song and first single from The Love Movement, and is one song that I still love to listen to. Sampling Japanese producer Towa Tei’s “Technova,” Tip and Phife Dawg take turns expressing confusion and even frustration because of their uncertainty pertaining to dealings with a member of the opposite sex. The visuals display as much. “Now you caught my heart for the evening/Kissed my cheek, moved in, you confuse things/Should I just sit out or come harder/Help me find my way…”
“Question: What is it that everybody has, and some pirates and thieves try to take?” Well, it’s “Da Booty,”, the third song on this album. The production is great, but the lyrics are rather forgettable. Busta Rhymes and Redman join the fray on “Steppin’ It Up,” and it’s their verses on the track that make it as dope as it is. The content of their bars is different from typical Tribe, but that’s what adds to its great sound.
“Like It Like That” is aided by The Ummah production and a very relaxed Q-Tip. The theme of The Love Movement was, well, love, and that was the focus of Tip on “Common Ground (Get It Going On).” After asking whether the listener has ever met a woman that took their breath, Tip lays out how to keep her: “Be a slave to her, don’t be brave to her/Make sure that she’s right, make sure that you’re wrong.” It’s more for those who pander, but advice, nonetheless.
I have always viewed “4 Moms” as an instrumental interlude, and I love that it featured Chalmers “Spanky” Alford, a celebrated jazz guitarist. Understandably, this probably made the cut more because of Ummah member J Dilla’s style. Regardless, I wish that each Tribe album had set aside two minutes for something similar.
The Love Movement simply did not need “His Name Is Mutty Ranks.” Phife, of Trinidadian descent, clearly tried to bring a little of that flavor to the album, but it failed. Horribly. The same can be said for the following track, “Give Me,” which featured rapper Noreaga. Forget the fact that I have never been a fan of Noreaga. I can’t stand campy hip-hop, and that goes double when it comes from Tribe.
Fortunately, ATCQ gets back to business on “Pad & Pen.” D-life delivers the intro and timely adlibs. How could you not love a song that contains the lines: “My Tribe be worldwide like the Nike swoosh/Emcees be soundin’ moist like vagina juice”? The Gap Band’s “Yearning For Your Love” is sampled on “Pad & Pen.” The great production and lyrics continue on “Busta’s Lament,” which somehow did not feature any verses, but a repeated “yo yo, yo yo yo” from Busta Rhymes.
Tribe weren’t shy when it came to discussing their sexual escapades and conquests, and such is the case on “Hot 4 U.” Tip and Phife both use their time to regale us with tales of some of the women who got them hot and bothered, from “a girl named Shelley/Six-pack belly” to “a shorty named Kelly/From East St. Louie.”
Let me remind you, the theme of this album was love. After rampant objectifications on the previous track, Tip and Phife are a bit more gentlemanly on “Against The World.” Disregarding any actual and potential obstacles, both rappers let their respective lady know that it’s them against everyone else. While “Find A Way” is my favorite song from The Love Movement, “The Love” is a very, very, very close second. Armed with a fairly complex bassline and a sample of jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower,” this song showcases Tip’s (and the group’s, I assume) love for the mere art of hip-hop and just plain ol’ love, dammit. “Love lovin’ love cause I love what I do…”
Sadly, the finale, “Rock Rock Y’all” is not only the end of The Love Movement, but it symbolized the end of A Tribe Called Quest as well. If you are even vaguely familiar with funk band Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, you’ll love the sample. What you may love even more about this one are the features: Punchline and Wordsworth, of the hip-hop group eMC, rapper Jane Doe, and a hip-hopper to the fullest, Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey. Crazily, Phife did not have a verse on this track, even though Tip managed to get a few verses in.
I imagine that fans of A Tribe Called Quest were somewhat dismayed by Beats, Rhymes, Life and subsequently shunned The Love Movement, to an extent. Even those who were fans of Beats probably didn’t enjoy the group’s last studio release too much because of it’s sunnier, love-influenced tone. It’s true; The Love Movement was not the group’s best effort. Some of the tracks came off as filler, whether because of the sound or lyrical content, but overall, the album was certainly better than most other music passed off as hip-hop at the time. It’s hard to listen to this album and not become nostalgic; remembering ATCQ when they were at their musical peak. In a documentary about the group, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, viewers learned that the group is still contractually obligated to release another album under Jive. Whether this happens or not, I can’t be sure. Obviously, I’d love for the group to reunite and gift our ears with another release. Hell, I’d even take an impromptu show in the middle of West Bubblefuck. The Love Movement is music that leaves me conflicted, emotionally. I hate that it signaled the end of their run, but I am also grateful for their work. My favorite rap group of all-time did things their way, and decided to make an exit before they were forced to. Gotta love it.