A TRIBE CALLED STRATEGY
In the Rapaport doc, Q-Tip states that Tribe’s in-and-out fourth member, Jarobi White, is “the real spirit of A Tribe Called Quest.” Unconcerned with critical reception at the time (with the lone exception being The Source’s coveted 5-Mic rating), Jarobi insists that ATCQ’s main goal was to be “flyest dudes around the way” and “the flyest dudes in New York City,” especially among their group of super-talented friends/competitors. “Yeah, that was the main sh*t,” agrees Tip.
Admittedly absent from promo images and videos during the Low End era, Jarobi, the fun-loving 19-year-old aspiring chef, was still very much in the picture. “To be totally honest with you, I was always around. Especially during the recording processes. I think that’s probably where my value was. I just wasn’t on camera and doing press and interviews.” Instead, Tip, Ali and Phife testify that Jarobi Wan Kenobi was playing the role of the outgoing strategist; cracking jokes in the studio to help the guys get in their creative zone, and maneuvering the club scene at night to actively serve as the “fun” face of Tribe in the process.
Many of those nights, Jarobi’s partner in club-hopping crime was his younger, Leaders of The New School buddy (who he affectionately refers to as “Buster”), Busta Rhymes. “I took him everywhere I went,” regales Jarobi of his fellow Long Island native and friend, whose anchoring verse on The Low End Theory’s posse cut third single “Scenario” made a mammoth impact and is still regarded as one of his best today, word to Nicki Minaj. Hitting parties almost every night of the week, Busta and Jarobi were far from shy, and introduced themselves to as many people as possible to build relationships.
Attempting to explain his statement about Jarobi in the film, Q-Tip makes a list of reasons why the group’s publicly-clandestine member might have been, in reality, the most essential during that early period. “Jarobi embodied the wisdom, the intelligence, the humor, the b-boyness – you know what I mean? Whereas all of the rest of us were kind of like individual parts, he probably encompassed all of our qualities.” Known to be an avid sports enthusiast, Phife echoes the same sentiment: “It’s like you have different components to your team, but your head coach knows how to use it, knows how to strategize and put different people in position to play their parts. That was Jarobi. And Ali too. That’s like our Phil Jackson and Tex Winters, right there.”
“Throughout the recording of the first three albums,” reveals Jarobi, “me and Tip spent a lot of time together record shopping, and being in the studio doing pre-production. That’s probably the part that I was around for most.” During our interview, Q-Tip also confesses that his only regret for The Low End Theory is not including more of Jarobi’s vocal presence. He recorded verses for “Scenario” and “Buggin’ Out,” but they never made the final cut, and neither did Jarobi-heavy unreleased songs “Pina Colada Margarita” and “Mystic Man” (which was Jarobi’s nickname). As far as the “spirit” and strategic “head coach” analogies made of him, personality-packed Jarobi will cop to the title. “My mom used to always say “You’ve got to broaden your horizons!” and as a kid who spent much of his youth listening to a super-diverse mix of music and reading National Geographic when sent to his room for punishment – “my house had a fish pond!” – he constantly sought to do just that.
Continuing with our Beat, Rhymes and Life celebration, tomorrow’s Part II installment of VH1 ALBUM-VERSARIES: THE LOW END THEORY AT 20 will dive deeper into the album’s innovative craftsmanship and address A Tribe Called Quest’s ever-evolving group dynamic.
[Photos: MTV Archives]