Ranking the members of Native Tongues is no small task. As a collective, the Native Tongues changed the face and sound of hip-hop. Coming out of New York, the crew was a collective of like-minded hip hop artists who would help bring abstract and open-minded lyricism to the game. They addressed a range of topics—from spirituality to modern living to race, and just having fun. The Native Tongues took their name from a line in the song “African Cry,” by the funk group New Birth. The song features the lyric, “took away our native tongues”. Together with the use of eclectic samples that would take on an increasingly jazzy sound, they became the pioneers of “conscious hip-hop”. The collective’s members include true hip-hop legends, pioneers, and trend setters. Here’s our list ranking the (core) members of the Native Tongues.
9. Lucien Revolucien
Although not very well known, Lucien Revolucien is a tremendously well respected member within the collective and in hip-hop in general. Lucien is a French artist and producer who was influential in the hip-hop movements in both France and New York in the 1990s. He is featured on Afrika Bambaataa’s 1989 release “Hip-Hop Against Apartheid”/”L’Unité Africaine”). His ear for music and ability to also produce made him an invaluable member behind the scenes. A Tribe Called Quest included a song dedicated to Lucien (“Luck of Lucien”) on their first LP, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Common also featured a similar song on his album Electric Circus, “Heaven Somewhere”.
The youngest member of the collective. Chi was only 16 when he made his first appearance on Black Sheep’s debut album, A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, on the posse cut “Pass the 40”. In 1992, Chi-Ali released his first single, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a #”, which reached #6 in the US Hot Rap Singles chart. The song was popular on urban radio stations, and the music video received good rotation on Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City. The album in which the song was featured, The Fabulous Chi-Ali, was released shortly thereafter. The album yielded two other singles: “Roadrunner” and “Funky Lemonade,” which were both remixed and re-recorded. Unfortunately, Chi became a victim of label politics which haulted his burgeoning career.
Fu-Schnickens was composed of Chip Fu, Moc Fu, and Poc Fu. Fu stood for unity and schnicken was a made-up word that meant “coalition”. Their hits include “Ring the Alarm”, La Schmoove” (featuring fellow Native Tongue member Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest) and “True Fu-Schnick”. All of which helped their debut album go gold. Their biggest song was “What’s Up Doc?” featuring none other than Shaquille O’Neil who had stated Fu-Shnickens was his favorite hip-hop group. Fu-Schnickens is also notable for their many references to martial arts films and Asian culture several years before Wu-Tang Clan. The Fu-Shnickens played a prominent role in making such references popular in hip hop.
6. The Jungle Brothers
The founders. Jungle Brothers are a hip hop trio composed of Mike Gee, Afrika Baby Bam, and DJ Sammy B. Known as the pioneers of the fusion of jazz, hip-hop, and house music, they were the first hip-hop group to collaborate with a house-music producer. The trio released their debut album, Straight out the Jungle in 1988. Their hip-house club hit single, “I’ll House You” was a huge hit in the UK. Fostered by Kool DJ Red Alert, the Jungle Brothers early success would pave the way for De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and the rest of the Native Tongues collective.
5. Monie Love
Love is the second European-born artist and first female to join the crew. The British MC is most famously known for her hit single “Monie in the Middle” (a track dealing with a woman’s right to determine what she wants out of a relationship) and “It’s a Shame (My Sister)”. Love was featured on the remix of Whitney Houston’s R&B hit “My Name Is Not Susan” in 1991, and appeared in the music video alongside Houston. Love also worked with the Legend Prince who produced her single “Born To B.R.E.E.D.” (which reached No. 1 on the Hot Dance Music chart and No. 7 on the Hot Rap Singles chart). Love is a two-time Grammy Award nominee, making her the first British female hip hop artist to hold that distinction.
4. Black Sheep
Black Sheep is the Queens, NY hip-hop duo composed of Dres and Mista Lawnge. After getting together in 1989, Black Sheep debuted in 1991 with the hit song “Flavor of the Month” and followed it up with certified culture classic, “The Choice is Yours”. The song has been sampled, used for commercials and covered by others even to this day. Their debut album, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, gained them praise and recognition in the hip-hop community for the album’s unique rhythms and intelligent often humorous lyrics. #FunFact: Black Sheep was the first hip-hop act to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno after the departure of Johnny Carson.
3. Queen Latifah
The multitalented Queen Latifah, is a singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and producer. She dropped her debut album All Hail the Queen in 1989, featuring the hit single “Ladies First” with fellow Native Tongue member Monie Love. Always standing strong, and always repping for the ladies, she earned her title. During her time in the Native Tongues, she also dropped the single “U.N.I.T.Y.”. A song that was influential in raising awareness of women’s rights and won her a Grammy. Latifah has achieved even more since her time with the NT including starring in the classic TV series Living Single, making more greta music, being in a ton of films and even getting an Oscar nomination. But her amazing early work is what set the stage for the Queen to reign in hip-hop and beyond.
2. De La Soul
De La Soul is an amazingly creative trio made up of Plucks 1, 2, and 3 (aka Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo). The group are the second longest standing members of Native Tongues, after the Jungle Brothers. They are best known for their eclectic sampling, quirky lyrics, and their contributions to the evolution of the jazz rap and alternative hip-hop subgenres. They put that all together in their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, which spawned the classic (and Billboard #1 single) “Me, Myself, and I“. The album is considered by most rap aficionados to be a hip-hop masterpiece. The group has had a critically acclaimed career and even won a Grammy. De La Soul’s music summed of the Native Tongue’s musical movement perfectly and the group is hip hop’s embodiment of the classic Shakespeare quote; “This above all; to thine own self be true.”
1. A Tribe Calles Quest
A Tribe Called Quest are the Queens, NY group originally composed of rapper and main producer Q-Tip, rapper Phife Dawg, DJ and co-producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and rapper Jarobi White. Easily one of the greatest and most influential groups of all-time. Tribe’s albums helped shape hip-hop’s golden age of the 1990’s as they were perhaps the most intelligent, artistic rap group of the time. The Source gave the group’s debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, a perfect five mics rating marking the first time the magazine awarded the rating. Their catalog of hip-hop classics is an impressive and extensive one with “Check the Rhime”, Electric Relaxation”, “Can I Kick It” and “Scenario” just to name a few. A Tribe Called Quest is the most commercially successful act in the Native Tongues collective, with all six of its albums going gold or platinum. All of this gives them the #1 spot on the Native Tongue member’s list. And of course, RIP to Phife Dawg.
Thank you for checking out our list of Members of Native Tongues: RANKED. Check out more of our rankings and lists:
Written by @TalentedMrFord