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Technique

They may be wrapped up in signifying, but when A Tribe Called Quest makes a joke, it's not usually a cheap one. They like to have fun, lyrically and in performance, but little that they do is about getting an easy laugh. To the contrary, their humor seems to exude from their lyrics and performance naturally; the feel is less like watching a comic performance and more like watching two loving old friends gleefully joke around with each other. You can't help but laughing even if the joke wasn't really told for you (hence, perhaps, Tribe's popularity with white audiences). It's a pleasure-inducing sensation, the Tribe Called Quest brand of silliness—but it manages never to feel faked or put on. More importantly, ATCQ never got backed into a corner of being "those funny guys" (or "those political guys," or any other kind of pigeon hole). Their humor helped keep them feeling natural, alive, and less like the caricatures of themselves that so many celebrated artists become.

These days, a lot of people complain that there is a lack of real humor in hip-hop. A Tribe Called Quest's intelligent mockeries could serve as a source of inspiration to future generations; after all, everyone loves a solid parody. Can you think of any current examples of popular songs that are also parodies?

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