You haven’t lived until you’ve looked into the rear view mirror of your mini van , and witnessed, in unison, four Black boys nodding and reciting that refrain, mimicking the lyrics of one of the greatest voices hip-hop has ever produced.
Bonita Applebum, the second single off of Queens-bred hip-hop icons, A Tribe Called Quests’ debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, is about a woman. A strong yet subtle adoration of that woman. Maybe its about more than one woman. I’m pretty sure its about every beautiful, curvaceous, stylish, sassy, elegant, round-the-way, bubbly, wife-material like Black woman on the planet. I’m certain.
Sure, its about her curves, more specifically, her round and ample booty, but in that era, when that joint was released, the golden era of hip hop, MCs were respectful. They loved Black women. Tip’s sub conscience opens up by asking himself, Do I love? Do I lust for you? Am I a sinner because I do the two? That’s him getting his mind right before he approaches the sister. Tip made it plain from jump when he introduced himself and approached this fictional goddess with charm and respect.
Hey, Bonita, glad to meet ya/For the kind of stunning newness, I must beseech ya…
Being with you is a top priority/ain’t no need to question the authority.
A hip-hop record about the admiration of a woman, and no sex occurring within seconds of the song’s first couple of bars? What a novel idea. My boys are able to contrast what passes as hip hop today and what it should sound like by being bombarded with my music. They’re introduced to the suave lyrical stylings of Big Daddy Kane, Father MC, L.L. Cool J, and Heavy D on the regular. But those days are long gone now. There are maybe a couple of MCs that attempt to approach love, affection, and appreciation for Black women without vulgarity i.e. Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, but not they way Tribe did it. It was smooth, had an air of school boy innocence, and it was hypnotic. The group, the sound, the lyrics, the songs were all before their time. I could identify with them, as a freshmen in high school, because they dressed the way I did. Being from Kansas City, jazz music was a staple in my household. Tribe pioneered the art of fusing jazz music with hidden gems from different genres (or as we vinyl heads like to call it, digging in the crates) to find break beats, horns, and vocals to create a life’s work of masterpiece anthems of their own. Bonita Applebum is their signature record.
Quite honestly, I think their magnum opus is Midnight Marauders; their 1993 release, but People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm served its purpose by showing the world the vast possibilities of hip-hop. ATCQ stretched your mind in ways and places it had never gone before. The way they blended Ramp’s Daylight with the opening drums from Little Feat’s Fool Yourself, was simple yet brilliant. That was the vintage formula for most of their hits. Q-Tip may have one of the largest vinyl collections in America, along with ATCQ member Ali Shaheed Muhammad. They turned sampling into a legitimate artform. They ran a tiny, fine tooth comb through stacks of albums to find songs, in order to lift split second riffs, and gave birth to Jazz, Award Tour, Electric Relaxation, Luck of Lucien and so many other amazing songs. And when the track was complete, similar to that thick, gently rubbed and seasoned rack of beef ribs (you can tell I’m from the barbeque capital of the planet), and tossed in the smoker, all it needed then was the sauce; the perfect back and forth wordplay between Tip and Phife Dog. But can anybody (help me Michael Rappaport!) tell me what Jarobi actually did?
(A Tribe Called Quest- L to R: Jarobi, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Q-Tip, Phife Dog)
Who knows. The world may never know. But the Barnes brothers will definitely know about the magic, the sheer skill and craftsmanship that used to be involved in making a hip hop record that will stand the test of time. But right now, Sy Money, my nine year old’s only take away from the song was discovering another way to say booty.
I’ll take it.
(Chairman of the board, chief of affection…that’s me.)