New Audio: Pharell Williams’ Atmospheric And Sensual Remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s Beloved Bonita Applebum

More than enough ink has been spilled throughout A Tribe Called Quest‘s lengthy and influential run together, so delving deeply into their backstory will likely seem unnecessary. But what I can tell you is that personally, as a Queens native, who grew up listening to hip-hop almost as long as I could remember, A Tribe Called Quest held a special place in my heart — and I suspect that for a lot of weird kids, who obsessed about music as much as I did (and still do), that they kind of saw something of themselves in the group.

Just by being alive and conscious, there are constant reminders that somehow you’re getting older and the years have flown by quicker than you ever thought. So when I received an email from a publicist about the 25th anniversary of the release of A Tribe Called Quest’s debut effort, People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths of Rhythm, I was blown away. How did 25 years go by so quickly?

As a schoolboy, I can remember that the first batch of singles off People’s Instinctive Travels resonated with me and my classmates; however, the single that really seemed to capture everyone’s young hearts was “Bonita Applebum.” And honestly, how could it not?  The odds were pretty high that someone managed to play the song at some of the first house parties you attended, in an attempt to get shy and awkward tweeners to slow dance together — or if you were anything like me, you dreamt of slow dancing with your crush while the song was playing. Or maybe you did like some of my classmates and me, where you changed the lyrics to the song slightly  to pay homage to a girl that everyone had a crush on at the time. Of course, it helped that the girl, who was named Ganida, had a named that rhymed with Bonita and didn’t destroy the song’s established rhyme scheme. God only knows what we would have done if the girl’s name was Stephanie, Megan or Paula. 

Recently, the members of A Tribe Called Quest along with Sony Legacy Recordings announced an expanded edition of their debut effort, People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its release. Slated for release on November 13, the 25th Anniversary edition of ATCQ’s debut effort will be remastered from the original tapes from Grammy Award-winning engineer Bob Power, and will feature exclusive remixes by Pharrell Williams, J.Cole and CeeLo Green. Interestingly, the re-issue of People’s Instinctive Travels will mark the first of a number of albums that the group will be re-issuing over the next few years — presumably to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Low End Theory‘s release next year, and the 25th anniversary of Midnight Marauders‘ release in 2018.   

Certainly, if you’re a hip-hop head, you’re more than familiar with “Bonita Applebum,” arguably one of the sexiest, most old-school leaning pick up lines of a song ever released in the history of hip-hop.

It shouldn’t be terribly surprising that producer, vocalist, emcee, and songwriter Pharrell Williams, spent his teenage years in Virginia Beach listening to and absorbing A Tribe Called Quest’s legendary and beloved albums. And as a result, ATCQ has been, as Williams has publicity cited in countless interviews, a major influence on him and his overall sound. As I noted earlier, Williams contributed a remix to the expanded 25th anniversary of People’s Instinctive Travels — in this case, a remix of “Bonita Applebum” that replaces the familiar soul-jazz guitar sample with slowly cascading and swirling synths, reminiscent of a slow-burning version of Williams’ collaboration with Snoop DoggBeautiful,” a “Good God” vocal sample, crowd noise and chatter, while retaining the song’s sensual feel. Sure, the remix is slightly more uptempo but it manages to do so in a moodier, spaced out fashion that makes the remix sound as though Williams had been listening to Brian Eno‘s atmospheric and ambient soundscapes and to Kraftwerk‘s Trans Europe Express.