A Tribe Called Quest’s Album Artwork Shows The Naked Truth About Hip-Hop’s Generation Gap
Update: Since A Tribe Called Quest member Jarobi White posted the album artwork discussed below at approximately 11am EST, Q-Tip has since posted a variation that he is calling the official album artwork. While the background is similar, the naked woman taking a selfie and the ATCQ tribal woman looking on have been removed. They have been replaced by a cartoon figure bearing ATCQ’s red, black and green colors. This cover conveys a much different feeling and message than the earlier posted cover. What that is, is anyone’s guess…Stay tuned.
Since their inception, the members of A Tribe Called Quest have presented as the full package. Their music consisted of impeccable rhymes and groundbreaking beats, and their visuals were comprised of trendsetting fashion and engaging videos. A particularly defining characteristic has been the artwork they’ve chosen for their albums.
The cover for their debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm, was a colorful and abstract depiction of ATCQ walking their own path amongst city dwellers in their setting. With the release of their follow up, The Low End Theory, however, a figure was introduced that would become iconic. A naked woman graced both the front and back covers, covered in red and green tribal art. Though the woman was not identified, she affectionately was sometimes referred to as “Bonita,” and ode to the woman described in Tribe’s song “Bonita Applebum,” and she world re-appear on the album artwork for Midnight Marauders, Beats, Rhymes & Life, and ATCQ’s greatest hits anthology. Always naked, she was sexy without being sexualized, and somehow conveyed strength and pride in her appearance. As the world prepares for the release of Tribe’s final album in just a little over a week (November 11), and a day after Q-Tip announced the LP would feature Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes, Elton John, Jack White and others, the group has now revealed the artwork for We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service.
Not surprisingly, the alluring figure has re-emerged, after sitting out for The Love Movement, for the final album. It’s been 20 years since she graced the Beats, Rhymes & Life cover, though, and things are very different. Instead of being big, bold and the center of attention, as with past albums, she seems small and is relegated to the corner. She seems a bit cowed by a fully naked woman, au natural with no colors, who takes top billing on the cover. She is bigger and, seemingly, even more shameless than “Bonita” was when she bared herself, in profile, on The Low End Theory. The woman is spread eagle, taking a selfie, as she squats before a wall filled with black and white boxes that look strikingly similar to the Instagram logo. Just above her, the album’s title, We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service, is spray-painted in quotes.
The artwork seems symbolic for where ATCQ may see with their place in today’s music, as they release their final salvo 18 years after their last album. Things have markedly changed in Hip-Hop, with sounds like Trap and so-called “Mumble Rap” dominating the charts and the clubs. There has been a clear generational shift which, love it or hate it, cannot be denied. Just like “Bonita’s,” however, Tribe’s markings are indelible, and their legacy will live on.