Medline ‘A Quest Called Tribe’ LP/Cassette (My Bags) 5/5

There are few names in hip-hop that have garnered the level of respect that A Tribe Called Quest have since their debut in 1990 with ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm’. The reverence their first three albums alone (including ‘The Low End Theory’ in 1991 and ‘Midnight Marauders’ in 1993) are held in cement those projects along with its members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad amongst hip-hop royalty.

The legacy of A Tribe Called Quest lies within the subsequent generations of rappers, producers, beat-makers and DJs who herald Tribe’s music as the soundtrack to their youth and the inspiration for them to forge their own path in hip-hop. ‘A Quest Called Tribe’ is very much the exploration of Orlando “Medline” Diaz’s passion for the hip-hop luminaries and it’s a passion that’s exquisitely realised on the new My Bags record label release.

Eight tracks from the beloved Tribe catalogue are masterfully tackled here including ‘Electric Relaxation’, ‘Scenario’ and ‘Jazz (We’ve Got)’ in a thrilling new project that is sure to captivate hip-hop fans’ imagination, particularly with the love and affection with which the songs have been recreated.

Through the My Bags label, Medline’s projects have consistently managed to straddle the lines between pushing the boundaries of his own creativity and trying new styles and approaches, while still remaining true to his French-Chilean heritage; it’s the metaphor that comes to life in subtle ways through Medline’s, for example, use of both analog and digital tools and instrumentation.

Aside from ‘A Quest Called Tribe’ in itself serving as an homage to hip-hop’s own cultural heritage, Medline still finds a way to dig that little deeper and scrawl his signature sound in to these new creations, in this case, by respecting the works that provided the backbone to the original Tribe recordings. In ‘Continue A Rouler’ (renamed from ‘Keep It Rolling’), Medline skilfully segues into the song’s original sampling of Roy Ayers Ubiquity’s 1974 version of ‘Feel Like Making Love’ at the song’s conclusion; same as for ‘Relaxation Electrique’ (renamed from ‘Electric Relaxation’) whose recreation leans heavily towards Ronnie Foster’s ‘Mystic Bounce’ (1972) from the outset. It’s a genius touch that works beautifully.

February is a month of notable significance for hip-hop fans as it marks the month of James Yancey’s (Jay Dee, Dilla) birth and subsequent death. As one-third of the Ummah production stable (along with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad), Dilla’s legacy is partly built upon the Tribe albums he contributed largely to, ‘Beats, Rhymes and Life’ and ‘The Love Movement’, so it’s fitting to see some notable Dilla productions revisited here like ‘Trouver une Voie’ (‘Find A Way’) and ‘Continue A Rouler’ (‘Keep It Moving’), the latter of which cleverly reimagined with gospel-like handclaps.

There is actually a bigger *picture* here – no pun intended – that transcends Medline’s music, making the entire project a more immersive experience, and that’s the exceptional artwork provided by Stéphane Carricondo. As well as his artwork adorning the vinyl sleeve of the album, the Bandcamp page also features an excellent A2 poster for sale that is an inspired piece.

Imran Mirza