As a teenager growing up in Virginia Beach, Virginia in the early Nineties, Pharrell Williams would spend countless hours in his basement absorbing and dissecting records from iconic hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. “A Tribe Called Quest is cerebral,” the mega-producer said in a deleted scene from Beats, Rhymes & Life, a 2011 documentary on the group. “It’s priceless. It’s music theory for anybody that wants to be a producer. Go study that.”
Williams has long cited Tribe as a major influence on his sound. Now, Rolling Stone is premiering the producer’s remix of the group’s 1990 classic “Bonita Applebum” from their debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. The remix is the first of three previously unreleased remixes featured on A Tribe Called Quest’s upcoming reissue of that LP.
The remix will be available as a free download upon pre-order for the reissue, which is set for release on November 13th. In addition to Williams’ track, which Pharrell recorded this year specifically for the album, the reissue will include J. Cole’s remix of “Can I Kick It?” and a “Footprints” remix featuring Cee Lo Green.
Williams’ version of the song replaces the familiar guitar sample of soul-jazz group RAMP’s “Daylight” and vocals and sitar of Rotary Connection’s “Memory Band” with Toro y Moi–esque swirling synths, a “Good God” soul vocal sample and background crowd chatter. Keeping the song’s sexual nature intact, Williams swaps out Q-Tip’s original “Sex” sample at the end of the track with the best sexual moans on record since Lil Louis’ “French Kiss.” Williams’ more uptempo, synth-anchored version hews closer to French DJ C.J. Mackintosh’s Carly Simon–sampling remix that the group released with the single than the original song.
The album’s re-release will be the first of numerous reissues ATCQ plans to put out “over the course of the next few years,” though the group has yet to detail future reissues. A Tribe Called Quest last released a studio album in 1998 with The Love Movement.
“Epic LP that was way before its time!,” Tribe MC Phife Dawg tells Rolling Stone of People’s Instinctive Travels. “Q-Tip’s thought process was beyond genius, an album that 25 years later, you can still listen to from top to bottom!!!! I’ve often said there may be better emcees than Q-Tip, may be better producers than him as well, but tell me who can possibly be better than him at both? Call me biased, but I’ll wait!!!!!!!! (TICK, TICK, TICK)”
Williams’ contribution is just the latest encomium to one of his favorite groups. In 2007, Q-Tip chose Pharrell, alongside Lupe Fiasco and Common, to perform the group’s 1993 song “Electric Relaxation” at VH1 Hip Hop Honors. That same year, Jay Z modified the hook to “Bonita Applebum” on the Pharrell-produced “I Know,” rhyming, “Bonita Applebum, I gotta put you on.”
More recently, the producer included ATCQ’s massive 1992 hit “Scenario” on two soundtracks he curated and executive produced: last year’s NBA 2K15 video game and Dope, the nostalgist hip-hop film released earlier this year. When Kendrick Lamar released the Pharrell-produced “Alright” in June, Williams said, “[I wanted to] try to bring something a bit more mystical. I kind of had my A Tribe Called Quest hat on that day. I’m a huge Q-Tip fan.”
In 2013, Williams detailed to Elle the importance of the group on his own budding individuality. “I did not have a style back then,” he said. “I was just then discovering A Tribe Called Quest, which led me to the understanding that I could be whatever I wanted to be, even if at a minimal level, it was just being different. That’s when I learned I could be different. And then my identity started to really come out, and then, right around 1990, I started having style.”
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm 25th Anniversary Edition Track List
1. “Push It Along”
2. “Luck of Lucien”
3. “After Hours”
5. “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”
6. “Pubic Enemy”
7. “Bonita Applebum”
8. “Can I Kick It?”
9. “Youthful Expression”
10. “Rhythm (Devoted to the Art of Moving Butts)”
11. “Mr. Muhammad”
12. “Ham ‘N’ Eggs”
13. “Go Ahead in the Rain”
14. “Description of a Fool”
15. “Footprints” remix feat. Cee Lo Green
16. “Bonita Applebum” (Pharrell Williams remix)
17. “Can I Kick It?” (J. Cole remix)