Can I Kick It? – Unpacking the Sonic Groove of Hip-Hop’s Golden Age


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for A Tribe Called Quest's Can I Kick It? at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Incessant Call-and-Response: A Reflection of Unity in Sound
  5. Beneath the Groove: The Tribe’s Subtle Declaration of Artistic Independence
  6. Sampling as Storytelling: Nodding to the Past While Carving the Future
  7. Iconic Lyrics and Memorable Lines: ‘Mr. Dinkins, Would You Please Be My Mayor?’
  8. The Song’s Hidden Meaning: A Sonic Hug in the Quest for Identity

Lyrics

Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Well, I’m gone (go on then)

Can I kick it? To all the people who can Quest like A Tribe does
Before this, did you really know what live was?
Comprehend to the track, for it’s why, cuz
Getting measures on the tip of the vibers
Rock and roll to the beat of the funk fuzz
Wipe your feet really good on the rhythm rug
If you feel the urge to freak, do the jitterbug
Come and spread your arms if you really need a hug
Afrocentric living is a big shrug
A life filled with (fun) that’s what I love
A lower plateau is what we’re above
If you diss us, we won’t even think of
Will Nipper the doggy give a big shove?
This rhythm really fits like a snug glove
Like a box of positives is a plus, love
As the Tribe flies high like a dove

(Can I kick it?)
(Can I kick it?)

Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Can I kick it? (yes, you can)
Well, I’m gone (go on then)

Can I kick it? To my Tribe that flows in layers
Right now, Phife is a poem sayer
At times, I’m a studio conveyor
Mr. Dinkins, would you please be my mayor?
You’ll be doing us a really big favor
Boy, this track really has a lot of flavor
When it comes to rhythms, Quest is your savior
Follow us for the funky behavior
Make a note on the rhythm we gave ya
Feel free, drop your pants, check your hair
Do you like the garments that we wear?
I instruct you to be the obeyer
A rhythm recipe that you’ll savor
Doesn’t matter if you’re minor or major
Yes, the Tribe of the game, rhythm player
As you inhale like a breath of fresh air

(Can I kick it?)
(Can I kick it?)

Full Lyrics

As the needle drops on the turntable invoking the iconic bassline of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side,’ A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Can I Kick It?’ emerges as a rhythmic anthem of affirmation and community in hip-hop’s evolutionary saga. More than just a catchy hook and a head-bopping beat, the song weaves a tapestry of cultural references, self-identity, and jovial discourse that has made it a cornerstone in the annals of hip-hop history.

Steeped in the essence of the early ’90s laid-back vibe and the era’s intellectual awakenings, the song represents a pivot from the predominant narratives of bravado and strife in hip-hop to the birth of alternative voices—one where joy, introspection, and inclusivity find harmonious interplay. As the Tribe inquires, ‘Can I Kick It?’ the question becomes a multi-layered invitation, tapping into the interconnected themes of music, culture, and personal empowerment.

The Incessant Call-and-Response: A Reflection of Unity in Sound

At first listen, the recurring refrain of ‘Can I Kick It?’ is a simple rally for audience participation, an ageless element of hip-hop’s interactive performance art. Yet, the incessant call-and-response pattern carries within it a deeper symbolism of unity. It’s a unifying call that extends beyond the confines of the track, aiming to harmonize with the listener’s inner rhythm—a sharing of space, if you will, on the cultural dance floor.

The repetition also manifests the Tribe’s confidence in their art form and in their audience’s ability to groove along. It’s a mutual recognition, an acknowledgment of the cyclical nature of inspiration between the artist and the community they speak to. This synergy of beats and voices, of sounds and souls, is what truly animates the Tribe’s question—granting permission to the listener to contribute their own verse to the song’s extended play.

Beneath the Groove: The Tribe’s Subtle Declaration of Artistic Independence

What at first may seem like a party-starter is, in reality, an assertion of creative agency by A Tribe Called Quest. As the song unfolds, it offers a laid-back narrative detailing the journey of artistic discovery and freedom. To ‘kick it’ transcends mere physical action; it morphs into a metaphor for expression without limits or constraints.

Phife Dawg and Q-Tip, the central voices of the tribe, do not just invite us to a physical reaction but rather to a collective experience of self-actualization. The question they pose is rhetorical, permission already granted, asserting their presence in the hip-hop landscape with a playful ease that allows them to transcend barriers of genre, style, and era.

Sampling as Storytelling: Nodding to the Past While Carving the Future

The backbone of ‘Can I Kick It?’ is not just its beat, but its intelligent use of sampling that epitomizes the dialogic nature of hip-hop. Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ bassline serves as a bridge connecting disparate musical worlds, a familiar anchor that grounds the Tribe’s explorative lyrics. But the sampling goes beyond Reed’s melody—it’s a collage of sound that bolsters Tribe’s narrative of connectivity.

Every sample in the track serves as homage to the influences that shaped the group while simultaneously challenging the listener to dig into the roots of their own musical lexicon. Through sampling, A Tribe Called Quest deftly honors its predecessors while carving out a sonic space that was—and remains distinctly theirs.

Iconic Lyrics and Memorable Lines: ‘Mr. Dinkins, Would You Please Be My Mayor?’

In true Tribe fashion, the lyrics of ‘Can I Kick It?’ are peppered with memorable lines that not only catch the ear but also speak to the social and political context of the time. The mention of Mr. Dinkins, New York City’s first African American mayor, is one such line—a timely reference, encapsulating the Tribe’s perspective on political hope and civic engagement.

The lyrics connect the personal with the political, grounding their sonic journey in the everyday realities and aspirations of the urban milieu from which they emerged. Whether it’s a nod to a politician or an invitation to lose oneself in the music, each line carries weight, showing us the power of hip-hop to be both reflective and progressive.

The Song’s Hidden Meaning: A Sonic Hug in the Quest for Identity

Digging deeper into the theme of unity in ‘Can I Kick It?’ reveals a heartfelt invitation to fellowship and to a shared experience of life. ‘Come and spread your arms if you really need a hug,’ is more than just a figure of speech—it’s a metaphorical embrace, an Afrocentric notion of group identity and solidarity in the Quest for self-expression.

The Tribe’s vision of ‘Afrocentric living’ is not one that imposes, but rather one that proposes a way of being that is open and inclusive. It’s a vision that sees beyond the individual, tapping into the collective consciousness that hip-hop, at its core, aims to serve. ‘Can I Kick It?’ is thus a celebration of the self as part of a greater whole, and a challenge to find one’s place within the chorus of the Tribe—and by extension, within the rich tapestry of hip-hop culture.

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