A Tribe Called Quest is currently enjoying the fruits of their labor spawned from their classic debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, which turned 25-years-old this past April.
The album was groundbreaking for a myriad of reasons but it also was one of the earlier Hip-Hop records to explore deep into the business of the music industry, as the genre was relatively new to massive success in terms of records sold. “Can I Kick It?,” arguably the album’s most popular single (largely rivaled by “Bonita Applebum)” was released in the fourth quarter of 1990 and was instantly recognized for its bassy rift which heavily borrowed from late pioneer punk rocker Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” jam.
According to ATCQ member Phife Dawg, that key ingredient to “Can I Kick It?” was a pricey one indeed.
“I remember with [record label] Jive, there was a problem with the sample being cleared,” Phife recalled to Rolling Stone. “I don’t think they cleared the sample, and instead of Lou Reed saying, ‘You can’t use it,’ he said, ‘Y’all can use it, but I get all the money from that.'” Phife says Reed took 100 percent of the royalties and publishing and “to this day, we haven’t seen a dime from that song.”
On their follow-up album, 1991’s The Low End Theory, Q-Tip’s infamously rapped “Industry rule number four thousand and eighty/Record company people are shady” on the group’s single, “Check the Rhime” after dealing with countless industry heads. Phife apparently still subscribes to this belief as he points the finger at the now defunct Jive for not brokering the deal a little better. After all, “Can I Kick It?” also samples “What a Waste” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “Spinning Wheel” by Dr. Lonnie Smith, “Dance of the Knights” by Sergei Prokofiev and “Sunshower” by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band.
“I’m grateful that [the song] kicked in the door, but to be honest, that was the label’s fault,” the Five Footer continued “They didn’t clear the sample. And rightfully so. It’s his art; it’s his work. He could have easily said no. There could have easily been no ‘Can I Kick It?’ So you take the good with the bad. And the good is, we didn’t get sued. We just didn’t get nothing from it.”
The 25th Anniversary Edition of People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm features new remixes from Pharrell Williams, J. Cole and CeeLo Green and is currently available on iTunes.