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Da Underground Sound

Da Underground Sound: To Be (or not to be) Native

todayJuly 19, 2021 102

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First of all, the Native Tongues are not an official Hip-Hop group, crew, click, organization, or squad.  Unofficially, they are more than the all of the aforementioned.  Here is the when, why, where and how.

This story begins in the 1980’s in New York City.  By this time, Harlem’s Kool DJ Red Alert is already a well-established and respected Hip-Hop DJ having rose to fame on WRKS 98.7 KISS FM. 

(courtesy of WRKS 98.7 Kiss FM)

Red Alert helped to mentor his nephew Mike Gee and his friends Afrika Baby Bam and DJ Sammy B.  He helped them gain studio time in the late 80’s so they could start honing their craft and begin recording as the Jungle Brothers.

Now Mike and Afrika both attended Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan (yes that same school that produced Brother J of the mighty X-Clan).  Here they first befriended future A Tribe Called Quest bandmates Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Q-Tip.  In 1987, they began to click and the Jungle Brothers begin recording their debut album under the leadership of Uncle Red with the assistance of his protege Tip. 

(courtesy of the artists)

Their recording continued into 1988.  In the same year, at a concert in Boston, Jungle and Tip meet four other artists of a similar steez- called De La Soul.  Comprised of MCs Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove, and DJ Maseo, De La had formed in High School and was being executive produced and mentored by their Uncle Red Equivalent- DJ Prince Paul in Amityville, NY.  Paul was already well-established in his own right having enjoyed success with Stetsasonic. 

Subsequently, in November 1988, the Jungle Brothers release their now classic debut album Straight Out the Jungle, featuring vocals from Red Alert and both beats and rhymes by Tip.  Simultaneously, De La was recording on their own classic.  One day, they invite Jungle, Tribe, along with Queen Latifah and Monie Love to a recording session for the song “Buddy”.  The track complimented De La’s classic album 3 Feet High and Rising.  Released in February 1989, 3 Feet High and Rising was an immediate Hip-Hop phenomenon. This session is the marks the Native Tongues commencement.  By now, it should be mentioned that Q-Tip had actually, literally recommended their collective to be named ‘Native Tongues’ while looping a New Birth song of the same name during another production session.  Afrika liked it and it stuck.

(courtesy of Tommy Boy Records)

So by late ’88 into early ’89,  De La Soul had become a household name in Hip-Hop fandom.  They were equal in status to groups such as NWA, Heavy D and the Geto Boys at this point and were a powerful inspiration to A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah and Monie Love- all of which would release their debuts within the next year and sharing production and guest vocals amongst themselves.  The Tongues success would continue to flourish into the early 90’s when the group Black Sheep joined the family.  Other contributions were made by Chi Ali and Leaders of the New School- with their alpha Busta Rhymes.

As of now, the Native Tongues artists have blessed one another over a span of five decades with quality material.  There have even been rumblings of a possible Native Tongues documentary film and or album which gained momentum after the success of NWA and Wu-Tang Clan’s recent productions, but as of now, nothing is confirmed.  In a recent interview on the Dad Bod Rap Pod podcast, Prince Paul revealed his interest in developing a Native Tongues documentary and had actually been approached by certain unnamed individual/s about making it happen.  He spoke about it with Dres of Black Sheep, who was cautiously optimistic.

Even if they never release an official, collaborative project, their art has already made a permanent, positive impact on Hip-Hop culture and should be forever celebrated.  Great music that emphasizes positivity, creativity, social justice and fun.  Yes fun- a word that has become almost taboo in Hip-Hop.  Long live the Native Tongues!

(courtesy of  A Tribe Called Quest)


Here is a list Native Tongue classic, Hip-Hop albums:

Jungle Brothers- Straight Out the Jungle, Done by the Forces of Nature

De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul is Dead, Stakes is High, Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump

A Tribe Called Quest: Peoples Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, Low End Theory, Midnight Marauders, We Got it From Here: Thank You 4Your Service

Black Sheep – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Busta Rhymes – The Coming, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God

Q-Tip – The Renaissance


Recent Native Tongue releases:

Busta Rhymes – The Coming, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God

Jungle Brothers – Keep it Jungle

Black Sheep – Tortured Soul 

De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody…

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here: Thank You 4Your Service

Written by: Manga Dolo

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