A Tribe Called Quest Represent, Represent

The music video for Tribe’s “Electric Relaxation” is easily one of the finest hip-hop music videos ever made. Aside from being a dope song in its own right, the video for the second single off “Midnight Marauders” is a refreshing break from the blatant misogynism that plagued (and continues to affect) so much of the rap on Much and MTV. Although it would have been easy for Tribe to make a typical rap video replete with dancing girls and sexual innuendo (indeed, the song’s lyrics almost beg for it: “relax yourself girl, please settle down”), they opted for something entirely different.

Much of the video focuses on Q-Tip’s pursuit of the woman the song is addressed to. However, rather than dwelling on extended shots of the two of them together (say, dancing at a club), the camera instead remains fixed on Q-Tip, Phife and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. In fact, the object of Q-Tip’s affection is seen only fleetingly; first standing on the curb as the crew drives by in a cab and then later while they’re eating at a diner. This subtle nod to how most relationships work in real life (it’s not all lapdances from the get go) makes Tribe seem that much more accessible.

The second aspect of the video that makes it so appealing is the aforementioned scene in the diner (it starts at around 1:45). Here we see the members of Tribe sitting in a booth drinking coffee and coke, telling stories, laughing, whatever. Around them people are nodding their heads to the irresistible beat. The whole scene was obviously fun to shoot, and it’s fun to watch. The result is compelling, mainly because it reveals how hip-hop started and what continues to propel it forward: a sheer love of music. The video may not be flashy (it was filmed in black and white) or out of the ordinary, but ordinary is real and relateable and that’s what makes this video so refreshing to watch.

As one review of “Midnight Marauders” put it, “Tribe proved that there is more to making a good record than having complex rhymes, and showed that the lyrically average could write good songs when focused through love of hip hop. Tribe made music that was soulful and inspiring, for the headphones, the system, the ride, and the bedroom. What other group has done it like that?”

-boo

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