In the history of hip hop, A Tribe Called Quest are one of the most innovative and influential bands ever. No ifs and no buts. The five albums they released between 1990 and 1998, featured a genre melting fusion of genres and influences. Musical genres melted into one. Hip hop, jazz, funk and soul were all thrown into the mix. Not only did this prove innovative and influential, but captured the imagination of a generation. Two gold albums and three platinum albums in the space of eight years are proof of this. Since then, another generation of music lovers have discovered and been influenced by A Tribe Called Quest. So too, have another generation of producers and musicians. Among them are Simba and Miton Gulli who will release The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest on BBE Music on 9th September 2013.

Simba and Milton Gulli decided to pay homage to one of hip hop’s most influential groups. A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest aren’t just any hip hop group. No. They’re an old school hip hip group whose music inspired and influenced a generation. It’s innovative music with a message and a social conscience. The message was always joyous, bristling with positivity, and determined to enable and inspire a generation. That it did. It’s also music that’s stood the test of time. Dig out an old A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest album, put it on, and it’s truly timeless. Memories come flooding back and suddenly, you’re reminded why you fell in love with music. That’s what A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest mean to people, including Simba and Milton Gulli. Before I tell you about The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest, I’ll tell you about the music they’re paying tribute to.

Like so many people, I can remember exactly when A Tribe Called Quest released their debut album. It was 17th April 1990, my birthday. That was when I first heard People’s Instinctive Travels and The Paths Of Rhythms. Released on Jive, it reached number ninety-one in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-three in the US R&B Charts. Innovative, inventive, literate, witty and full of biting social comment, People’s Instinctive Travels and The Paths Of Rhythms was certified gold. This was the start of an eight year musical journey, where critical acclaim and commercial success were omnipresent.

A year later, The Low End Theory was released in September 1991. A truly groundbreaking album, hip hop met jazz on a genre-sprawling album. Laid back, with a mellow, chilled out, jazz-tinged vibe, The Low End Theory reached number forty-five in the US Billboard 200 and thirteen in the US R&B Charts. Certified platinum, Low End Theory is referred to as a classic. That’s no exaggeration. However, The Low End Theory wasn’t A Tribe Called Quest’s only classic.

Midnight Marauders was released to critical acclaim in November 1993. It surpassed the commercial success of their two previous albums, reaching number eight in the US Billboard 200 and thirteen in the US R&B Charts. Following in the footsteps of The Low End Theory, this fusion of hip hop and jazz was certified platinum. A Tribe Called Quest were now hip hop’s biggest group. Innovative, influential and inventive, no-one else came close to A Tribe Called Quest.

That was proved by Beats, Rhymes and Life, which was released in July 1996. Reaching number one on the US Billboard 200 and US R&B Charts, it was A Tribe Called Quest’s biggest album. Certified platinum, Beats, Rhymes and Life, was unlike previous albums. Gone was the positivity and upbeat sound of their first three albums. It was replaced by a darker, moodier and broodier sound. Despite this, it was a huge success. Looking back, maybe we should’ve realized that A Tribe Called Quest’s career was nearly over. The dark, moody sound should’ve been a clue.

September 1998 saw the release of The Love Movement, which reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and US R&B Charts. It picked up where Beats, Rhymes and Life left off. The music was dark and moody. Full of frustration, anger and humor, The Love Movement was full of messages and A Tribe Called Quest’s acerbic wit. Certified gold, The Love Movement meant that A Tribe Called Quest’s career ended on a high. They weren’t going to fade away. That’s why A Tribe Called Quest’s music is perceived as innovative, inventive and influential. Among the people it’s influenced are Simba and Miton Gulli, who pay homage to A Tribe Called Quest with The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest .

Nelson Angelo Sitoi, whose better known as rapper Simba, was born in Mopatu, Mozambique. He grew up speaking Portuguese, but when he decided to make a career in music, realized that he’d have to rap in English. On his debut album was Run and Tell Your Mother, Simba raps in English. When the album was released in Mozambique this was problematic. After all, very few people could speak English. Run and Tell Your Mother established Simba’s reputation both at home, and further afield.  A fusion of hip hop, jazz, funk and Afrobeat, it was a groundbreaking album. This lead to an appearance at the prestigious Mozambique Jazz Festival. It also lead to collaborations in South Africa.

Simba’s collaboration with Lizha James, Lovely Day entered the South African charts and was nominated for the Channel O awards. This then led to a collaboration with award winning, South African producer Moreira Chonguica. After this, Simba opened for Mos Def in Johannesburg. Having established a reputation further afield, Simba headed home, to start the next chapter of his career.

Back home, Simba formed his own hip hop band Simba and The Rocats, who are a dub group. Sometimes, Simba hooks up with another band, The Brown Band. It seems music is Simba’s life. Maybe that’s why he formed his own record label, Brown Records. His latest project is a collaboration with Mota, a Madagascan pianist who fuses musical genres. So do A Tribe Called Quest and Miton Gulli, who he collaborates with on The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest.

Milton Gulli collaborated with Simba on The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest. He was born in 1978 and spent his childhood in Portugal and Saudi Arabia. This was where his father worked. The family went where work took his father. By the time he was a teenager, and starting to become interested in music, he was living in Madeira. Blues, jazz, Afrobeat, rock and hip hop had captured Milton’s imagination. This lead to Milton learning to play guitar. Soon, he formed his own band Philharmonic Weed with Ricardo Bicho and his sister Marisa. Later, Milton returned to the mainland to Lisbon, where he studied law. 

Studying law didn’t mean the end of Philharmonic Weed. The only problem was the lead singer. They couldn’t find the right person. Eventually, Milton decided he’d become the lead singer. At last, the band gelled. Soon, they were winning competitions and amassed a large fan-base. Their fusion of soul, funk, reggae and Afrobeat was popular as far afield as Panama City, where they played in 2001. Two years later, in 2003, Philharmonic Weed released their debut E.P. Capital Som. Then in 2007, they released their debut album The Primeiro Mundo. Philharmonic Weed even took part in a workshop with The Jamaican Allstars, in Lisbon. That wasn’t the last time Milton was asked to be work with other artists.

Soon, Milton was being asked to play with a variety of groups. XEG, Sam The Kid, Sagaz, plus reggae band Mercado Negro. He was like a guitarist for hire. There was even an appearance playing guitar at the Mercelo D2 show at the Festival Sudoeste in 2006. Later that year, Philharmonic Weed played their last gig. After that, Milton played in a variety of groups.

For a while, Milton was one of the lead singers of Cool Hipnoise. Their fusion of acid jazz, funk and soul was popular not just in Portugal, but further afield. He sang on their single Brother Joe and then headed out on tour. They played throughout Europe and were firm festival favorites. So too, were Cacique ’97.

Cacique ’97, an Afrobeat collective Milton formed with musician and producer Goncalo Oliveira in 2005. They were joined by members of Philharmonic Weed and Cool Hipnoise, The twelve members of Cacique ’97 soon won over audiences at festivals. Then in 2009, they released their debut album. Since then, Cacique ’97’s popularity has continued to grow. Later in 2013, they’ll release their sophomore album. By then, Milton was living in Mozambique.

During 2011, Milton decided to return to his roots. So, he headed to Mopatu, Mozambique. This proved to a case of serendipity. In Mopatu, Milton met Simba. Soon, Milton and rapper Simba on a The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest. An eleven-track album, Simba and Milton Gulli pay homage to one of hip hop’s greatest groups, A Tribe Called Quest. The result was Simba and Milton Gulli’s The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest is the jazz-tinged and pensive Intro. Just a meandering piano and wistful vocal combine. Waves of piano accompany a vocal that grows in emotion. Soon, the piano signals it’s all change. A shuffling arrangement unfolds. Drums, percussion and guitar accompany a vocal that’s bristles with energy as It delivers lyrics that are literate and intelligent. Providing the perfect accompaniment, is the jazz-tinged arrangement.

A rabble rousing introduction that’s worthy of James Brown in his pomp opens Excursions, the opening track to The Low End Theory. Powered along by the bass and hi-hats, Simba delivers a blistering rap. It’s full of energy and emotion. Meanwhile, deliberate stabs of piano and quivering strings provide a dramatic backdrop. Combine the emotion of the vocal and the drama of the arrangement, and  the result is a potent homage to A Tribe Called Quest.

Old school. That describes African Tour. It literally bursts into life. Simba lays down a rap that’s full of anger, frustration and emotion. He struts his way through the lyrics. Bravado is omnipresent. Beneath his vocal, are crispy drums, harmonies, percussion and scratches. Melodic, full of hooks and a reminder of hip hop’s glory days, it’s like a trip back to the nineties.

Can I Kick It (Chuta) featured on A Tribe Called Quest’s debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and The Paths Of Rhythms. Straight away, Simba get’s busy laying down a defiant rap in Portuguese and later, English. Bursts of blazing horn, cinematic strings, percussion, la-la harmonies and keyboards join a moody bass. They’re almost incidental, as Simba steals the show. He delivers a swaggering vocal, that’s defiant and full of bravado.

Breathy, gasping vocals open Electric Relaxation, a track from Midnight Marauders. It feature a mellow, understated jazzy arrangement. Keyboards, wistful flute, percussion and finger clicks provide a backdrop while Simba and Milton trade vocals. Sassy and needy, drums, keyboards and percussion combine to create an arrangement where jazz, hip hop and Afrobeat combine.

Bonita Intro might be less than two minutes long, but it’s a quite beautiful, innovative track. It features an animated conversation between a mother and her daughter. They’re accompanied by just jazz-tinged guitars and piano. The result is a wistful, emotive and beautiful track that sets the scene for Bonita Applebum. 

Bonita Applebum is another track from 1990s People’s Instinctive Travels and The Paths Of Rhythms. From the animated conversation, Simba delivers an impassioned, powerful and need vocal. Bursts of sassy vocal answer his call. Meanwhile, the jazzy guitar and deliberate piano join washes of keyboards and the thoughtful, wandering bass. As Simba’s vocal grows in power and emotion, so does the arrangement. Drums provide the heartbeat, a piano provides melancholia and the guitar meanders across the arrangement. They provide the backdrop for a female vocal bristling with emotion and tenderness.

Scenario featured on The Low End Theory, a true hip hop classic. For me, this is easily A Tribe Called Quest’s best album. Here, Simba and Milton Gulli rekindle the spirit of 1991. From the jazzy intro, with its blazing horns, it’s an explosion of energy and emotion. Simba gets busy, delivering a swaggering vocal. Like Milton, he oozes confidence and bravado. Behind them, the music is a fusion of jazz, hip hop and drama. Washes of keyboards, percussion and drums provide a moody, broody and dramatic backdrop for this authentic slice of old school hip hop.

God Lives Through (I Love My God), which is one of my favorite tracks on The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe. Originally, it featured on Midnight Marauders. It’s one of these tracks it gradually reveals its secrets and subtleties. Jazz chords played on a guitar join pounding drums, synths and a strident rap. When it drops out, it’s replaced by beautiful, gospel influenced harmonies. They truly, are a thing of beauty. This seems to spur Simba on. His vocal bristles with emotion. Later, the sultriest of saxophone is joined by shakers, before the gospel tinged harmonies sweep in. So powerful and beautiful are they, that they’ll make a believer out of even the most hardened atheist.

We’ve Got The Jazz is another track from the The Low End Theory. It’s a paean to jazz. Witness the lyric: “I was the man chosen to carry Charlie Parker’s spirit through these rhymes.” Understated and heavily influenced by jazz, pounding drums grab your attention. They force you to listen to some of the best lyrics on The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe. You’re glad they did. Accompanying them, are some of the sweetest jazz licks, rasping horns and a meandering bass lines. Together, they’re the accompaniment to Simba’s impassioned, earnest rap on this paean to the music of Bird, Trane et al.

Closing The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe, is Outro, less than two genre-melting minutes of music. Here, African and Western music unite, resulting in a spellbinding and beautiful track. Key to that are the percussion, flute and most importantly, a heartfelt vocal bristling with emotion and beauty.

Ever since I received Simba and Milton Gulli’s The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest, I’ve been playing it nonstop. Quickly, it became one of my favorite albums of 2013. That’s no surprise. The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest is an album oozing in quality and class. There’s no filler on The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest, just quality music. That’s thanks to one of the greatest groups in hip hop,  A Tribe Called Quest who provided the material for this album. They were innovators, imaginative and inventive, a group who influenced a generation of musicians and producers. Among them, were Simba and Milton Gulli.

Just two years ago, Simba and Milton Gulli met in Mopatu, Mozambique. Drawn together by a shared love of music, they decided to pay homage to one of their musical heroes, A Tribe Called Quest. Now this isn’t easy. Albums like The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest, which will be released by BBE Music on 2nd September 2013, are notoriously difficult to pull off. After all, the four men responsible for the music of A Tribe Called Quest were some of the most progressive and forward thinking men in the history of hip hop. Despite this, Simba and Milton managed to pay a fitting and worthy tribute to A Tribe Called Quest.

Eleven songs and forty-eight minutes long, The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest sees Simba and Milton Gulli fuse musical genres and influences. Best described as a genre-melting album, hip hop meets jazz, gospel harmonies, funk, Afrobeat and soul. A mesmeric musical melting pot, Simba and Milton Gulli pay a fitting tribute to one of hip hop’s greatest bands. The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest is suitably innovative and progressive paean to A Tribe Called Quest. Simba and Milton Gulli’s The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest is an album that will influence and inspire new generation of music lovers. Maybe then they’ll discover the music of A Tribe Called Quest, plus the jazz and Afrobeat that inspired not just A Tribe Called Quest, but Simba and Milton Gulli?

Hopefully, The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest, is the first of many collaborations between Simba and Milton Gulli. Listening to The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest, this should be the start of a musical journey for Simba and Milton Gulli. It’s obvious they work well together. As collaborators go, they’re equally inventive, innovative and imaginative. Maybe they’re the future of hip hop? After all, hip hop seems to have forgotten its roots. Hip hop is a shadow of its former self. It’s all glitz, glamor and gangstas. Simba and Milton Gulli are the polar opposite of this. They’re old school and talented, with plenty to say that’s worth hearing. That includes The Heroes A Tribute To A Tribe Called Quest, a fitting and innovative homage to one of hip hop’s greatest groups… A Tribe Called Quest. Standout Tracks: Intro, Excursions, Electric Relaxation and God Lives Through (I Love My God).


1 Comment

  1. createthinklive

    Reblogged this on createthinklive and commented:
    Tribute to real musicians

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