The Native Tongues was a hip hop collective whose primary members included De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Jungle Brothers. They steered away from the more bombastic elements in hip hop that were beginning to take shape and really come into prominence in the ’90s, with N.W.A., then later Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, the whole East Coast/West Coast rivalry thing.
The Native Tongues’ music focused more on positives than negatives, eschewed violent rivalries and pushed the affirmation of their cultural heritage. They acknowledged the many social problems facing the young black generation but encouraged rising up past the innate social forces keeping them down to achieve success and self-fulfillment of their own volition. Positive stuff.
Unfortunately, while I dig lots of the earliest stuff by the Native Tongues’ members, this album is another case of “wish I liked it more.” As more older hip hop comes into my musical orbit, I’m finding I really enjoy listening to it. Most of what I’ve heard is super chill and the sampling is INSANE. Take The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest. A study in the samples on that album is like a study of jazz, disco & R&B music from the last 40 years. Outrageously good stuff.
However, had you asked me before I just now looked it up, I would’ve thought The Jungle Brothers used a fair amount of sampling in their work. I was way wrong, according to Wikipedia. Looks like no samples were used on either Straight Out The Jungle (their debut) or DBTFON. Which I think is where my own expectations might’ve skewed how I feel about this album. As I said before, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest used samples like crazy, and I immediately connect to that. I love when an artist takes a preexisting art form or work and flips it on its head to create something new and completely unexpected. It’s difficult to create on blank canvases, but it’s a different kind of difficult to create within the confines of someone else’s art.
I just never found myself really getting into DBTFON as a whole. Granted, there were a few songs that I warmed to and I began to enjoy little flourishes on. The beats didn’t grab me like they did on other Native Tongues’ albums.
The Jungle Brothers didn’t draw from past samples for creative inspiration on this album, and I think that’s why I’m kind of predisposed to not fall in love with it. It’s telling that my favorite song on the album features De La Soul, Q-Tip, Monie Love and Queen Latifah, all other members of the Native Tongues. The first time I heard it I remember thinking it sounded like it belonged on 3 Feet High And Rising more than anything.
And that might be where this album might not be my ticket. Overall, I like its genre, and I could see adding a fair number of these tunes into a “mellow hip hop” playlist. In its true album form, it’s too much for me to care about, but in smaller sizes, I can really get into it. As far as the Native Tongues go, I’d lean more towards some of the other members’ albums, mainly because this album hits more of that early ’90s hip hop sound a little heavier than albums like 3 Feet High And Rising or The Low End Theory.
Top 3 Tunes:
- Doin’ Our Own Dang
- What U Waitin’ 4?
- Good Newz Comin’
I must love incomplete words with apostrophes.