Friday, September 2, 2011

A Tribe Called Quest -- "I Left My Wallet In El Segundo" (1990)

I left my wallet in El Segundo
Left my wallet in El Segundo
Left my wallet in El Segundo
I gotta get it, I got-gotta get it
Earlier this year, a documentary movie titled Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest was released. (Beats, Rhymes & Life is also the title of the group's fourth and most well-known album.) It is required viewing for "Hip Hop 101" students!

A Tribe Called Quest (or "ATCQ" for short) is an alternative hip hop group -- darlings of collegiate hip hop fans.  Their music does not resemble gangsta rap in the least. ATCQ and De La Soul were the principal members of "Native Tongues Posse," a collective of hip hop artists inspired by Afrocentric rapper Afrika Bambaata and known for their positive, socially-conscious lyrics and jazzy, sample-filled music.

ATCQ's two MCs, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, were childhood friends who grew up in Queens. They were 19 and 18, respectively, when they produced a five-song demo that laid the groundwork for their 1990 debut album, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Like De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising, the ATCQ album was playful and apolitical. One critic said it was so sweet and lyrical that "[y]ou could play it in the background when you are reading Proust." (Hmmm . . . I'll have to try that.)

The album cover
Beats, Rhymes & Life was recorded when the rivalry between East Coast and West Coast rappers was at its most bitter, and it was much more serious in content and more musically challenging. A couple of years after its release, ATCQ unexpectedly broke up.

The group reunited several years later, and its 2008 tour is the subject of the recent documentary, which highlights the personal differences between the group's members.

"I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" is one of ATCQ's earliest recordings, and it is as goofy and G-rated a hip hop track as you'll ever find. I stumbled across a remix of the song on a Fat Boy Slim CD years ago, before I had ever heard of ATCQ. It was a great favorite of some of the kids on the baseball team I coached when I played it in the car while driving them home after practices.

Here's the official music video for "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo."  (If that video doesn't make you smile, you need to lighten up, dude!)

By the way, the video would have you believe that El Segundo is in the middle of the desert.  The real El Segundo is a small incorporated city in Los Angeles County that is located on the Pacific Ocean, just south of Los Angeles International Airport.

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

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