When one thinks of A Tribe Called Quest, their 1990 anthem "Can I Kick It?" swiftly comes to mind. Although the track's release trailed the unveiling of the silly yet sensual People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm tracks "Bonita Applebum" and "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo," the rap group never saw any money from the song's success. Instead, The Velvet Underground's Lou Reed cashed in from the song's ongoing triumph.
Why? Well, the bass line comes straight from the unmistakable Transformer classic hit, "Walk on the Wild Side."
The track also features slide guitar samples from Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band and drums and keys from jazz organ player Dr. Lonnie Smith, but the 1972 bass line shines through as the most notable component. A Tribe Called Quest member Phife Dawg recently revealed that Reed, known to be a hip-hop fan, was on board with the decision to sample his bass line under one condition.
"I remember with [record label] Jive, there was a problem with the sample being cleared," Phife explained to Rolling Stone. "I don't think they cleared the sample, and instead of Lou Reed saying, 'You can't use it,' he said, 'Y'all can use it, but I get all the money from that.'" Reed reeled in 100 percent of the song's earnings and "to this day, we haven't seen a dime from that song," Phife further explained.
Reflecting on People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm's current reissue and its 25th anniversary, Phife doesn't hold a grudge against the "Sattelite of Love" singer for his business decision.
"I'm grateful that [the song] kicked in the door, but to be honest, that was the label's fault," the rapper noted. "They didn't clear the sample. And rightfully so. It's his art; it's his work. He could have easily said no. There could have easily been no 'Can I Kick It?' So you take the good with the bad. And the good is, we didn't get sued. We just didn't get nothing from it."