If you know the term “Native Tongues” you may be a fan of hip hop from the late 80s – early 90s. This is the time when the groups Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Chi Ali De La Soul, Monie Love, Queen Latifah and Black Sheep were flying high on their releases. Throw in groups Leaders of the New School and Brand Nubian (perhaps Common, Mos Def, and a few more) and that is quite a collective of artists. They flew high for a long time but rap changed in just a few short years. New acts emerged – the Native Tongues collective died down. De La’s Posdnuos rapped on the album Stakes is High that, “The Native Tongues have officially be reinstated” but that never really happened.
A few years ago Q-Tip and Leonardo DiCaprio(?!) where trying to pitch a show based on those early days of the Native Tongues. Can you imagine a weekly semi-autobiographical show about Tribe, De La, and the JB’s producing those amazing new sounds and tracks? Would have been great. But nothing was ever announced so I’m sure some assholes decided it wasn’t worth pursuing.
2016 was a banner year. Director Omar Akil launched a Kickstarter to finish production on his documentary ‘Speaking in Tongues: The Legend of the Native Tongue Posse.’ It is being said to be the definitive documentary on the collective.
De La Soul had ran a Kickstarter for a new album in 2015 and August 2016 saw the release of their ninth album And The Anonymous Nobody. The album hit #12 on the Billboard Top 200 while also debuting at the very top of the Rap Album charts. This was amazing especially considering the fact that their last official album was way back in 2004 with The Grind Date (not counting the sort-of but not-really 2012 release First Serve) and rap has changed to…well…whatever the fuck is going on with rap these days.
Then something very strange happened. In late summer it was announced that A Tribe Called Quest was releasing a new album. I had been lying in wait for both Q-Tip’s and Phife’s new solo albums but…a new Tribe album? There’s no way. The group has said multiple times they would never record again and even had their final performances opening for Kanye at MSG in NYC.
Suddenly in November 2016, with little fanfare, Tribe’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service was released. Started before Phife died in March 2016 (but not completed at that time) the album was a fucking miracle. Tribe actually released a new album. The new album was amazing. Phife Dawg WAS on the album. The album topped the Billboard 200. Was it just interest in the group? Of course – they are legends in the field. But the album was just amazing.
Tribe has said it would be their last album – without Phife there is no group (even with Jarobi coming back into the fold). If Tribe went out and did another album with Q-Tip, Ali, Jarobi with Consequence and Busta – I wouldn’t mind if it was called A Tribe Called Quest. AND THIS IS COMING FROM A MONSTER HUGE PHIFE DAWG FAN. I LOVED Phife. But I wouldn’t mind it. I wouldn’t mind it if they kept recording and just called it something else…”A Tribe Called Life” or some shit like that.
That got me wondering…why shouldn’t they really do an album? Why not get everyone together and do a Native Tongues album? Put everyone together on one album – make something so amazing with so many people – something that would literally be a gift to every fan of hip hop.
De La and Tribe are still right here doing their thing. Black Sheep is still around even though it is just Dres, Mista Lawnge departed the group many years ago. Mostly he’ll do his thing as just Dres. But (and I can’t stress this enough) if you haven’t checked out the album Dres and Jarobi put out called evitaN you were missing out. That album was amazing.
From 1988 to 2006 the Jungle Brothers continued to release albums. They weren’t really big here in America anymore but they did have a large following overseas. Jungle’s B.A.M. (AKA Afrika Baby Bam) had expressed disappointment many years ago saying that it was Q-Tip and Posdnuos were the “reason” that a Native Tongue reunion never happened.
Groups like Jungle Brothers remain inactive in recording, as do Brand Nubian, Leaders of the New School (Busta Rhymes is still going strong doing his solo thing), and Monie Love. Chi-Ali only released the one album and went to prison. I believe he’s out now but I’m not sure how willing he would be to go back to music.
Queen Latifah? It’s a LONG time since her U.N.I.T.Y. days. She became a huge actress. She left hip hop behind for awhile but actually came back and released a rap album in 2009. Sometimes you can’t let go of what you love even when you left it behind a long time ago.
I feel that rap is at a great point – where those famous groups from long ago are finding a resurgence. It happened with De La last year. It happened with Tribe. Old fans just didn’t show up – they made new ones as well.
Would it be outstanding for De La, Tribe, and the JB’s to get together? Have Dres and Busta along for the ride? Throw Sadat X, Grand Puba, and Lord Jamar on a track. Bring in Queen Latifah to sing some choruses and maybe bust a few rhymes?
I always thought an album would have come in the nineties. They used to do those compilations with all the groups and then everyone would be all over everyone else’s tracks.
It never happened. It’s a shame. But as we learned in 2016 – life is a bitch. Heroes we know and love can go in a moment. Bowie. Prince. Phife. Gone. Forever.
It should be about the music. The unit. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
I’m sure it’ll never happen. But I do believe the time is right. Bring everyone together and finally drop that Native Tongues album.
It’s just time guys. It’s time.