Can I Kick It?
In a Nutshell
A Tribe Called Quest makes cultural criticism fun. "Can I Kick It?," a classic feel-good track from the group's 1990 debut album, doubles as a subtle critique of the song it is built off of, Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side." In the original 1972 hit, Reed turns New York City into an exotic place full of soulfulness and grit, a landscape marked by so-called "colored girls" on the corners singing "doo, doo, doo-do-do…"
New York natives A Tribe Called Quest respond with their own interpretation of New York soulfulness, presenting themselves as a group of cool young Afrocentric musicians with their own rhythm, fashions, and proud black history. Can they kick it? Yes, they can. Lou Reed, on the other hand…
About the Song
|Artist||A Tribe Called Quest
||Musician(s)||Q-Tip (Kamal Ibn Jon Fareed), and Phife Dawg (Malik Isaac Taylor) (vocals); samples from Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," Baby Huey's "Hard Times," Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band's "Sun Shower," David Porter's "The Way You Do the Things You Do," and Lonnie Smith's "Spinning Wheel"
|Album||People's Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm|
|Writer(s)||A Tribe Called Quest|
|Producer(s)||A Tribe Called Quest|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
In "Can I Kick It?" A Tribe Called Quest turns Lou Reed
's casual exoticizing of New York City on its head. It is a subtle musical parody, using samples and open-ended wordplay to take playful jabs at Reed and at the whole history of cultural appropriation in music. In the process, ATCQ also pays musical tribute to the soul
roots of hip-hop. Meanwhile, even though they might not totally approve of Reed's song, they admit—through using it—that the music is pretty chill.
One author called this song "a new use of signifyin' in the post-Civil Rights era
" (Richard L. Schur, Parodies of Ownership: Hip hop aesthetics and intellectual property law
, 33). Not making sense to you quite yet? Read on to get serious about the meaning of signifyin'
, Shmoop style.
On the Charts
"Can I Kick It" peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles in 1991.People's Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm
was not a huge hit when it came out, but it has since become a classic. It made it up to #91 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.