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A Tribe Called Quest: Beats, Rhymes and Life

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A Tribe Called Quest

Album: Beats, Rhymes and Life
Label: Jive

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The cover should be your first clue: There she is, that same red and green painted lady that's been around since 1991's The Low End Theory. And inside? Pretty much the same low-key, jazzy grooves and free-flowing raps that have also been around since Low End. With Beats, Rhymes and Life, Q-Tip and company have now made the same album three times, which would be something of a problem if the original weren't so damn great. The Afrocentric positivity and minimalistic beats are back, as are the ever-dumber boasts: "I packs 'em in like Van Halen," "Watch me stab up the track like O.J. Simpson," and so on. Sure, there are a few new wrinkles here: The delivery is slightly tougher, and the R&B divas—like Tammy Lucas on the L.L. Cool J-ish first single "1nce Again"—are a nice touch. But for the most part, Beats is just more of a good thing. Which isn't a bad thing. But it could be better.