A Tribe Called Quest was a critically acclaimed rap group comprised initially of Q-Tip (b. Jonathan Davis ― later changed to Kamaal Ibn John Fareed in the mid-1990s upon conversion to Islam ― 10 April 1970, New York, USA), DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad (b. 11 August 1970, Brooklyn, New York City, USA), Jarobi and Phife Dawg (b. Malik Taylor, 20 November 1970, Brooklyn, New York City, USA; d. 22 March 2016, USA). The group formed in high school in 1988 in Queens, New York City, NY, where they started as part of the Native Tongues Posse, with Queen Latifah, De La Soul, Black Sheep, Monie Love, and the Jungle Brothers, and were given their name by Afrika Baby Bambaataa of the Jungle Brothers.
Following their August 1989 debut, "Description Of A Fool," they had a hit with "Bonita Applebum" a year later, based on a classmate from their school. Their most significant success came the following year with the laid-back "Can I Kick It?" demonstrative of their refined jazz/hip-hop blend. This release earned the first ever "5-star" award from Source Magazine. Q-Tip also appeared on Deee-Lite's August 1990 hit, "Groove Is In The Heart."
While their debut, "People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm," was more eclectic and even self-consciously jokey, "The Low-End Theory" (recorded as a trio following the departure of Jarobi) blended boom bap beats with carefully selected jazz, funk, and soul melodies.
ATCQ was helped considerably by jazz bass player Ron Carter (who had worked with Miles Davis and John Coltrane). Tracks such as "The Infamous Date Rape" stoked controversy, while samples from Lou Reed, Stevie Wonder, and Earth, Wind & Fire were used frugally and intelligently. Q-Tip appeared in the 1993 movie "Poetic Justice" opposite Janet Jackson.
ATCQ was awarded the "Group Of The Year" after the release of 1993's "Midnight Marauders" at the inaugural Source Magazine Hip Hop Award Show in 1994 before being moved off stage by the arrival of 2Pac and his Thug Life crew, who were attempting to steal some publicity. It was later determined this was an accident on 2Pac's behalf. In 1996 "Beats, Rhymes And Life" debuted at number 1 on the Billboard album chart with highly evolved lyrics addressing issues with greater clarity than their past recordings.
"The Love Movement," which debuted at US number 3 in October 1998, was another mature, stylish collection of material. However, it lacked the spark of their earlier works. ATCQ released "We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service" on November 4, 2016, nearly 18 years after "The Love Movement" album. While recording verses for the album and his solo album, Phife Dawg passed away on March 22, 2016. During its first month of release, "We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service" was greeted with critical acclaim and fan support.
The group has been awarded the Founders Award at the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Awards and was honored at the 4th VH1 Hip-Hop Honors. In 2017, the group was awarded the Brit Award for International Group.