“Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest (1990)

The greatest call and response in hip-hop history. If someone asks you if they can kick it, and you say “no, you can’t”, then you’re an asshole.

“Can I Kick It” was Tribe’s third single, and was the first to really stamp coolness on Q-Tip’s flow. “El Segundo” and “Bonita Applebum” were a nerdy kind of cool, but “Can I Kick It” was plain old cool. It was probably the first Tribe joint to really resonate with hardcore hip-hop heads, as the first two singles flirted a little too heavily with a bohemian vibe that dissuaded hip-hop’s perpetually ice-grilled, meat and potatoes ONLY base.

Of course, “Can I Kick It” also introduced most of the world to Phife Dawg. His verse on De La Soul’s “Buddy” was cut out of the video version, and he doesn’t rhyme on either of the first two Tribe singles. Phife admitted in a lot of interviews that he really wasn’t present for much of the recording of Peoples’ Instinctive Travels, Tribe’s first album. He buckled down for The Low End Theory, which is really the first time you hear Phife in phull phlower. His second verse on “Can I Kick It” is charming but plodding. Aw, remember the days when Phife wasn’t a good rhymer yet and we wanted David Dinkins to be the mayor of New York City? Granted, he had a ton of odds against him, but I sure don’t want us to go back to that NYC again. I respect your good intentions, though, Phife Dawg and then-mayoral candidate David Dinkins.

(The video features a slightly remixed version of the song.)

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