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Tribe: A look back, looking ahead – Charles Kelly explores musical heritage in solo album

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NEW YORK, Jan 9, (AP): A Tribe Called Quest celebrated the 25th anniversary of its debut album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” in November by re-releasing the album with remixes helmed by Pharrell, CeeLo Green and J. Cole.

The re-release is the first of several planned by the group.

“We have a 25th for ‘The Low End Theory,’ we have a 25th for ‘Beats, Rhymes and Life,’ we have a 25th for ‘Midnight Marauders,’ which all are pretty monumental moments for us personally as well,” Q-Tip said.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, the group — including Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White — talked about celebrating 25 years in music, a possible tour, a Tribe biopic and more.

Q-Tip says one word describes Tribe reaching 25 years in music: humility.

“You go back and you look at everything and you’re kind of like, ‘Wow, I lived through a few lives’ and it just happened so fast. It’s somewhat overwhelming,” he said. “Not trying to be egotistical or braggadocios, it has nothing to do with that, but it’s like … a lot of people don’t get to see 25 in life.”

Ask Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White if they want the group to hit the road again and they’ll say yes. Asking Q-Tip will get you a different answer.


“I don’t know. … I really, I don’t know brotha. I mean, who knows?” said Q-Tip, who was interviewed separately because he was running late.

When asked if he was open to the idea of touring, he said: “Everybody makes it look like it’s me that’s not open to (it).”

Tribe recently performed on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”

“These are my brothers. I know nothing but them. I only wanna work with them … in terms of going on tour, I wanna go on tour with them,” Phife Dawg said.

White chimed in: “And we always have fun together.” Muhammad added that it’s exciting to see “a 15-year-old now discovering A Tribe Called Quest 25 years later” at a concert.

“The spirt of the music and the feeling and the love is strong. It’s bigger than us.”

Muhammad also shut down any rumors about tension between the bandmates. “If there was tension you would feel it. Do you feel tension? So there it is,” he said in a room with White and Phife Dawg.


On Tribe’s new anniversary album, Pharrell remixed the classic “Bonita Applebum”; Green worked his magic on “Footprints”; and Cole remixed “Can I Kick It?” Muhammad said the band reached out to a number of younger hip-hop acts to re-work Tribe’s music but not everyone was rushing to work with them.

“We reached out to many people. And I will go on record and say — and it might not be the most favorable thing to say — you reach out to people and there are some people that call you right back and there are some people who you got to chase,” he said. “And you would think that with a legacy project and a group that I think stood for a lot for hip-hop and music, you know, bridging jazz to hip-hop, bridging so many different genres that people would be scratching to be a part of this celebration.”

Tribe is easily one of the most respectable acts in the history of hip-hop. As for today’s generation, the veterans are hoping to see more individuality.

“Just a lot of laziness, whereas back when we were doing it everybody had their own lane. Nowadays it’s one on top of the other. ‘Oh, this sold three million with that style. Let me duplicate that style and run with it.’ In order for us to see the future everybody can’t sound like Future. Like, everybody sounds like Future. Like, I don’t know even know who’s who outside of Future,” Phife Dawg said.

Muhammad said contemporary rap needs more balance.

“You had N.W.A., you had the Geto Boys, you had Tribe Called Quest, you had Brand Nubians … Sir Mix-A-Lot; they’re worlds apart, but there was balance and you felt it globally. And we’re not feeling the balance (now),” he said. “And with people mimicking other artists because it brings them notoriety or financial reward, the art is lost and the culture hurts, it suffers. So I love seeing artist like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Logic just kind of bringing more of a balance back to (hip-hop).”

With the success of the N.W.A biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” could there be a film on the horizon about Tribe’s life?

The band’s career was the focus of the 2011 documentary, “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest,” but Muhammad said it only scratched the surface.

“As private as I am I’m like, ‘No,’ but I think so. …I think there’s a lot more to be told,” he said, though he added: “It’s a really vulnerable thing to open up that way. I don’t know if I’m ready for that.”

“A Tribe Called Quest is the reason I began my journey in trying to discover the kinesthetic properties of music,” Pharrell told the AP in a recent interview.

Muhammad said he always knew Pharrell would become an icon, and he even invited the performer to work with Tribe back in the mid-1990s.

The stars will align personally and professionally for singer Charles Kelley in February: He is expecting his first child and releasing his first solo record apart from the country vocal group Lady Antebellum.

After years of trying to conceive, Kelley and his wife Cassie found out last year they would be parents just as the Georgia native started working on a different sound separate from his bandmates Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood. The album, “The Driver,” is due out Feb 5; their baby, a boy, is due the same month.

“Some would say great timing and some would say poor timing,” Kelley, 34, said with a smile. “You can never predict when a baby is going to come, but I am so excited.”

The trio announced at the end of their Wheels Up tour last year that they would be taking a hiatus, but it will be a productive break for the group. Scott, too, announced she is recording a gospel album with her family during the time off.

On “The Driver,” Kelley explores his own musical heritage and influences ranging from Southern rock to ‘70s folk singers on songs that he admits probably wouldn’t have been a fit for the Lady A catalog. He channels Bob Seger on “Leaving Nashville,” a piano ballad about the highs and lows of life on Music Row, and enlists the legendary Stevie Nicks to duet on a cover of Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents.”

“For me, as an artist, I do have other things that I am into and styles of music,” Kelley said. “I just knew that if I never did this, it would never see the light of day.”

But it hasn’t been an easy reinvention. He announced a solo club tour, but then postponed several shows so he could finish the recording. And he learned he had to reintroduce himself to fans.

“I am kind of a new artist again, and we really needed to get the word out there,” Kelley said of postponing the tour.

Kelley admits that it has been a big change playing clubs again when Lady Antebellum virtually skipped that step, starting out opening up in amphitheaters and arenas for acts like Martina McBride, Keith Urban and Tim McGraw. Their first two albums released in 2008 and 2010 went multi-platinum, carried by songs like “Love Don’t Live Here” and the crossover hit “Need You Now.”

“You get so used to hearing 15,000 people scream and sing your songs back that it’s a little jarring,” Kelley said of his solo shows. “I have to walk off stage and go, ‘OK, I am going for a different response here.’”

Kelley shines when he sings solo, but he is an expert harmonizer on songs like the regretful “I Wish You Were Here,” which features Miranda Lambert. And the title song, a three-part harmony with Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay, already earned him a Grammy nomination for best country duo/group performance.

“In an ideal world, I would love to hop back and forth between these two projects,” Kelley said of Lady Antebellum and his solo work. “Both worlds are equally exciting. They are just fun for different reasons.”

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