My Parents and A Tribe Called Quest

Anyone who really knows me can tell you that I am a HUGE A Tribe Called Quest fan. Actually there’s a clue on the About Me page in which I am sitting with Cydney wearing a Tribe t-shirt as well as two videos posted with Cydney and their music playing in the background. If you said that you were a fan of hip-hop music and said that you didn’t like Tribe, a serious explanation would be needed and depending on the response that might be grounds for no longer being friends. The documentary Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest? I’ve watched a good thirty plus times. Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi have made three classic albums and two solid other ones that do not get their just due because they were not as good as the first two. Let me stop, because I could go on and on.

*Cues Peoples Instinctive Travels & the Paths In Rhythm*

Anyways. This post is about my parents more than anything else. After watching their documentary the first few times, all I could think about was how much Q-Tip and Phife remind me of my parents for many reasons. They are both very artistic people (my mother is an art teacher and my father a musician) and they too are from St. Albans, Queens who met as teenagers taking the bus home from Jamaica High school. Supporting each other along the way, they married May 14, 1983. A little more than two years later they had yours truly and my sister. My parents raised us in the same neighborhood and we moved out to Long Island for high school after years of working together to buy a home doing the best that they could raising us to keep us out of trouble and such. What made them work was that they had chemistry. The way that The Abstract and Phife Diggy had different styles, subject matters, and had contrasting voices it blended nicely to make an incredible product.

As many childhood friends and music groups do, when you grow up you grow apart. In a nutshell, that’s what happened to my parents. Tribe’s breakup in 1998 seemed to be out of nowhere and even other members of the group don’t completely understand why it happened or why they didn’t get along. Because there’s so much history, when you don’t get along it becomes very intense. When my mother and I have disagreements, I know that extra level of aggravation comes from the fact that I do things eerily similar to my father and my pops has the same sentiments with my sister being just like my mom. They may not admit it (they have but if they didn’t), you could see it in their eyes when it goes down. However, with the way things have played out, my sister and I don’t hold any of that against them.

As much as my parents do not get along, they do get along. I would say its 50/50. They still joke around and speak frequently. Since my mother has been diagnosed with cancer I think they have made a little more of an effort to let things go and are in a pretty good space. I would say it’s like while Tribe gets together and does shows from time to time, don’t expect a new album; but when they do you remember why you loved the music they made and its classic.

The best example of my parents’ chemistry to me would be when things went terribly wrong in Virginia right before Timile passed away. I told my mother everything that was going on. She couldn’t do much because she had just started chemotherapy a couple of weeks before then. She told me to wait a few days and call my father when he got back to New York. I called him Thursday night and told him all that was going on. That night, he was booking a flight to come down to Virginia. I was in a parking lot in Newport News with them figuring out logistics. My father thought it would be best if just he went, especially with my mother’s health. Right then and there they got into it because my mother was adamant about her coming down as well. It was heated, but I knew their hearts were in the right place because my father was looking out for her and they were both looking out for me.

They got to Virginia that Saturday afternoon. We packed up most of my belongings out of the apartment, ate, and went to Timile’s parents house for them to talk things out like adults as much as Timile’s parents would possibly do. When things got heated, my parents were able to calmly speak and articulate their points and let the “in-laws” know that they couldn’t bully them. They were able to go back and forth seamlessly from different sides of the room just giving each other looks as if they were cues. When they came to do what they came to do, it was classic. No one would know they were separated or that they got into it right before their performance (they didn’t, but I’m just saying). They knew exactly what each other was thinking and it was seamless as “Back in the days on the Boulevard of Linden… Ya on point Tip? All the time, Phife.” Afterwards, while I was upset (And rightfully so. It being the last time I saw Timile at all and Cydney for months), they were able to joke about how ridiculous things got and even finishing each others’ punchlines because for all of their differences, they still have a history and a lot in common. They were able to calm me down just being themselves.

*Cues 1nce Again*

I had been planning this post in my head since the day after I started this blog. Today being thirty years seemed like a good day to actually write it out and post it. You remember the classic albums and how they changed your life. When they go on tour every couple of years it sells out. You hope every time Busta Rhymes performs “Scenario” they come from behind the stage and you feel like its 1991 again. When and if they do, you enjoy it for what it is.

Right on cue, my phone rings… Electric Relaxation is my ringtone.

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