A Tribe Called Quest: Anthology

A Tribe Called Quest: Anthology

Both A Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys have had a profound impact on the development of hip hop, with Tribe and its Native Tongues brethren infusing it with a bohemian, personal ethos and the Beastie Boys constantly challenging its boundaries. But while the latter's members have radically evolved—from beer-swilling New York jokesters to L.A. pot-heads to upstanding hip-hop elder statesmen—A Tribe Called Quest has actually devolved, and not in classic Devo fashion, either. As the new greatest-hits album Anthology illustrates, the group began its career with an expansive vision that entailed everything from comic narratives ("I Left My Wallet In El Segundo") to love songs both sweet and horny ("Bonita Applebum"), to old-school back-and-forth banter ("Check The Rhime"). But after three stellar albums, Tribe regressed into uninspired musical conservatism. In the fawning mini-essay that accompanies Anthology, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds defends the group's last two albums as "finer works than you, or they (the band), could have appreciated in the moment." But the fact that only three songs from those records make it onto Anthology says more about Tribe's artistic decline than Hinds' comments can. Stitched together with one B-side, one soundtrack cut, and one Q-Tip single (available on both the Violator compilation and his forthcoming solo debut), Anthology reeks of contractual obligation, no matter how good much of its music is. Far better, and indicative of an especially fan-friendly approach, is the Beastie Boys' new double-disc, 42-song hits compilation The Sounds Of Science. Beautifully packaged with an 80-page booklet featuring extensive commentary on each song, the set pairs the band's hits with the odd remix (Fatboy Slim's retooling of "Body Movin'"), rarities (a Biz Markie-assisted cover of "Benny And The Jets"), and the dynamite single "Alive." As with every compilation, there are questionable entries ("Sabrosa," "Bodhisattva Vow") and songs that didn't make the cut but probably should have ("B-Boy Bouillabaisse," for starters). And for a group that hasn't made a bad album, it might have made more sense to release a set of rarities rather than a collection with dozens of songs most fans will already have. But there's more than enough rare and new stuff to make The Sounds Of Science a worthwhile purchase for completists and casual fans alike.

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