A Tribe Called Quest: 25 Years of Keeping Hip-Hop Healthy
“Can I Kick It?”, “Check The Rhyme”, “Bonita Applebum”, “Scenario”, the list goes on and on. All the hip-hop hits are courtesy of the Queens, N.Y. trio (and sometimes “y” quartet, counting Jarobi), A Tribe Called Quest. Tribe, for short, is one of the most revered acts in hip-hop—and with good reason. As part of the Afrocentric and innovative Native Tongues collective—which included De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Black Sheep, and others—they created and refined a template for ’90s hip-hop that was street-astute, worldly, and more inspirational than aspirational. Can you believe that was 25 years ago this week? Wow, how time flies.
But, even many of the old school “hip-hop heads” didn’t know that the members: Q-Tip,Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White all have a deep connection to health and healthy living. Take a look…
Q-Tip, aka “Kamaal The Abstract” was born Jonathan Davis. But no matter what name you call him, he was always one who didn’t mind standing out for what he thought was right. IN 1990, when the group first debuted, the then 20–year–old emceed about vegetarianism, French expatriates and domestic violence at a time when other more standard rappers’ topics were talking about something totally different, while all sounding the same. Yet he always made sure to still keep the party groove going with hits like Bonita Applebums.
Before it became popular to be healthy (jut look at rappers losing weight, getting fit, etc…its like a phenomenon in 2015!), Q-Tip was passing by beef and chicken and eating a vegetarian-only diet to help keep his mind sharp and his body ready for the grueling tour schedules they had.
Phife Dawg (Malik Isaac Taylor) made no secret of his struggles with type 2 diabetes. But it wasn’t his intention to become a diabetes advocate either, he says. “It was something I didn’t like talking about,” he says. “I just happened to mention it on one of our records [“Oh My God,” on 1993’s Midnight Marauders]—‘When was the last time you heard a funky diabetic?’ That’s all I said, which was actually enough … but I was just rhyming.”
In 2008, he had a kidney transplant after renal failure due to diabetes complications. The issues he’s faced with his diabetes were put front and center in the 2012 documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest. And for the past year, he says, he’s been back on dialysis—and he’s back on the transplant list. “I haven’t really spoken about being on dialysis again and needing another kidney,” he says. “It’s a strain on me as far as going where I want to go, doing what I want to do. When I was on dialysis the first time, my stepson was playing basketball… . I couldn’t practice with him. I wanted to go out and run with him and things of that nature, but I didn’t feel good.”
Phife calls eating healthy is more like a job. “It’s not even, 24/7, but 25/8,” says thhe self-described cream soda fanatic. The good thing, he says, is he hasn’t had an episode of hypoglycemia since Christmas 2012. The more he…