Study Guide

Can I Kick It? Introduction

Can I Kick It? Introduction

In a Nutshell

A Tribe Called Quest makes cultural criticism fun. 

"Can I Kick It?" is a classic feel-good track from the group's 1990 debut album, and it doubles as a subtle critique of the song it's 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, may get every penny, but also gets a lesson on cultural appropriation.

About the Song

ArtistTribe Called Quest, A
Year1990
LabelJive
Writer(s)A Tribe Called Quest
Producer(s)A Tribe Called Quest
Musician(s)Q-Tip (Kamaal Ibn John 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"
AlbumPeople's Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm

Music Video

Influences on Tribe Called Quest, A

Rakim
Slick Rick
Afrika Bambaataa
De La Soul

Influenced by Tribe Called Quest, A

Alliance Ethnik
Slum Village
Lupe Fiasco
Digable Planets
Mos Def
Talib Kweli
Hi-Tek
Black Sheep
Guru

Can I Kick It? Resources

Books

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Signifying Monkey (1988)
This breakthrough piece of Black literary theory lays out a complex but very interesting framework for analyzing African-American literature through history. Gates promotes the idea of signifyin' as a way to understand Black humor and Black identity in literature.

Richard L. Schur, Parodies of Ownership: Hip-Hop Aesthetics and Intellectual Property Law (2009)
Schur's deep dive into cultural appropriation, Black ownership of music, and contemporary racial problems offers a great analysis of "Can I Kick It?"

Shawn Taylor, A Tribe Called Quest's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (2007)
Part of the fantastic 33 1/3 series, this little book provides background detail on the creation and significance of A Tribe Called Quest's classic debut album, as well as some very personal anecdotes from the author.

Albums

People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990)
A Tribe Called Quest's debut album was not a huge hit, but it is considered essential, even classic, by many hip-hop fans.

The Low End Theory (1991)
Tribe's sophomore album did not disappoint—in fact, on most counts it surpassed expectations, becoming an immediate classic through its jazzy samples and loveably low-key beats.

Midnight Marauders (1993)
The wildest thing is that there is still a debate about which album is better: The Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders? In other words, ATCQ just kept one-upping themselves.

Images

Photo Gallery
The documentary film Beats, Rhymes & Life was released in 2011, and the film's website includes a gallery of recent photos of ATCQ members during the filmmaking process.

People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm Album Cover
The album cover for People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is a neon blend of urban imagery and Afrocentric style.

Q-Tip
Here he is promoting his album, The Renaissance, in 2008. Q-Tip has had to work hard for recognition as a solo artist beyond his Tribe reputation.

Ali Shaheed Muhammad
The DJ and producer behind People's Instinctive Travels was a huge force in creating A Tribe Called Quest. Aside from ATCQ, he became a force of his own, touring the world as a DJ and working high-production gigs.

Phife Dawg
The energetic rapper born as Malik Taylor passed away in 2016 from diabetes complications. A rough period for A Tribe Called Quest, the loss of a member was also a driving force to releasing an album the same year, 18 years after their previous album.

Jarobi White
Jarobi somewhat mysteriously disappeared from the scene after People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, but he and the rest of the Tribe reconnected in 2008 to do some shows and work on the Beats, Rhymes & Life documentary.

Movies & TV

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)
This biographical documentary about A Tribe Called Quest was the source of a series of mysterious controversies between the filmmaker, Michael Rapaport, and the members of ATCQ.Still, it promises to be a great experience, especially for Tribe fans, and kudos for the cool site. 

Websites

A Tribe Called Quest Official Site
This is a pretty simple site with videos, tracks to listen to, and straightforward bios of A Tribe Called Quest's members. 

Amanda Petrusich, "The Unlikely, Triumphant Return of A Tribe Called Quest," The New Yorker (2016)
Early in 2016, Phife a.k.a. Malik Taylor passed away from complications with diabetes at 45. Deemed the final straw to end Tribe Called Quest's career, they made a comeback, releasing an album late in 2016. That was 18 years after their last released album.

Video & Audio

"Can I Kick It?" Music Video
Not only can they kick "it," but they also dribble "it" in the video.

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