The release of A Tribe Called Quest's 1990 debut album, People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm, seemed to indicate a growing adventurousness in the world of rap music, especially in light of like-minded albums by the Beastie Boys, De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers. Unfortunately, the amorphous, genre-stretching hip-hop records of 1989 and '90 proved to be something of a false start; while A Tribe Called Quest has continued to put out good albums, the band has grown more conservative with each release. The follow-up to People's Travels, 1991's The Low End Theory, was arguably better than its predecessor, but the band's next two albums (Midnight Marauders and Beats, Rhymes And Life) each found TCQ narrowing its musical base, abandoning the hippie-ish vibe of its first album in favor of a stripped-down sound that placed the emphasis on loud breakbeats and minimalistic samples. Considering the lukewarm critical response to Beats, you'd think the group would be tempted to mess with the formula. Unfortunately, The Love Movement replicates the sound of Beats, Rhymes And Life so thoroughly that it might as well be titled More Beats, More Rhymes And Even More Life. As its title would indicate, The Love Movement is a concept album revolving around the theme of love, but The Ummah's sterile production drains the tracks of much-needed warmth. Still, there's a sense of sweetness to The Love Movement that shines through, even during the weakest moments. While not as immediately accessible as Tribe's first three albums, its still consistently solid enough to stand up to repeat listens. The group has said The Love Movement will be its last album, and while it's not exactly the return to form many fans hoped it would be, it's still a worthwhile swan song from one of the most important rap acts of the '90s.
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