Beats, Rhymes and Life is the fourth studio album by American hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. Released on July 30, 1996, by Jive Records, it followed three years after the highly regarded and successful Midnight Marauders. Produced by The Ummah, the album is a departure from the joyful, positive vibe of the group's earlier albums and is regarded as their darkest album in content.
In September 1993, shortly after the recording of Midnight Marauders had concluded, Phife Dawg moved to Atlanta. Along with Q-Tip's conversion to Islam the following year, the addition of Jay Dee to the group's new production team, The Ummah, and the enlistment of guest rapper Consequence, Q-Tip's cousin, the group dynamic changed drastically Phife Dawg later stated that "the chemistry was dead, shot", while Q-Tip felt that becoming a Muslim "made the atmosphere much more serious."
For Beats, Rhymes and Life, The Ummah created a minimalist sound reminiscent of The Low End Theory, which Ali Shaheed Muhammad described as "nothing extravagant, nothing far out." Miles Marshall Lewis of The Source praised The Ummah for being "the most proficient in the rap game at using samples as instruments in themselves." Regarding Jay Dee's five contributions to the album, Q-Tip stated, "He would just send me the beats and then I would lay them." One of his contributions, the lead single "1nce Again", was hailed as "one of the few successes" on the album and a "surprising R&B crossover."
Lyrically, the group addresses "everything from O.J. to spirituality" and were recognized for the complexity of their messages.
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