The tip-off to all of a Tribe Called Quest’s considerable talent was the grainy, mischievous curl in rapper Q-Tip’s voice: Tribe were abstract imps who always made you chuckle along with their surrealist bonhomie as much as gasp at their skills. This collection of hits and just-misses sensitively plots the flash points of their run, mixing tracks such as “Scenario,” the ultimate posse cut, with the previously unreleased “Mr. Incognito,” a whimsical, sticky-soled Lugz stomp through a thicket of snares and cartoon whistles. The hits haven’t aged: With its ripple of vibes and glimmers of seagull guitar, “Electric Relaxation” is still so sexy and downbeat it could make a Borg melt.
Tribe did more than fuse hip-hop with jazz — in the way their voices weaved into their beats and around their deeply chilled islands of jeep funk, their hip-hop was itself a kind of jazz. They also kept it hilariously real: On the lesser-known track “Peace, Prosperity and Paper,” Q-Tip comes clean about his financial aspirations by declaring that, as to money, “I want the mass amount/That the Sesame Street Dracula can’t count.”