With socially conscious lyrics, infectious boom-bap rhythms and jazz loops, A Tribe Called Quest’s 90s ‘backpack rap’ has stayed fresh until the Trump era
“Hey Bonita, glad to meet ya,” raps Q-Tip to the lady with the “elaborate eyes” and shapely dimensions (“28, 34, 37”). This second single from MC/producer Tip and his cohorts from Queens, New York – rapper Phife Dawg, DJ/co-producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad and “spirit” of the group Jarobi White – introduced fans to the latest members of the Native Tongues, the creative collective incorporating the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah and De La Soul. Taken from Tribe’s debut album, 1990’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, Bonita Applebum remains as mesmerising as its muse. Over a wistful sample of Daylight (1977) by Roy Ayers’ proteges Ramp, punctuated by the sitar lick from Rotary Connection’s Memory Band (1967), the 19-year-old Tip turns on the charm, his flirtations striking the perfect balance between sweet and sexy (“I like to tell you things some brothers don’t / I like to kiss you where some brothers won’t”); nerdy and earthy (“if you need ’em, I got crazy prophylactics”). “So far, I hope you like rap songs,” he rhymes. If Bonita didn’t like this one, she wasn’t worth it.