Jade’s “Don’t Walk Away” Inspired Q-Tip to Make “Award Tour”
“Award Tour” is A Tribe Called Quest’s highest charting single and perhaps the group’s most recognizable song. Between the neck-snapping production, Phife’s energetic second verse, and Q-Tip’s call and response “Do that, do that, do do that that that,” the song sounds as fresh 24 years later as it did the day it was released.
The idea for “Award Tour” first took root during DJ gigs Q-Tip played before the release of Midnight Marauders. “I remember there was this record by this girl group called Jade,” he told J.Period for the The [Abstract] Best Vol. 1 mixtape. “And the record was called ‘Don’t Walk Away’. That joint inspired ‘Award Tour’.”
Q-Tip had an immediate affinity for the production of ‘Don’t Walk Away’, but one element in particular stood out. “When I heard that bassline I’d be like, ‘Yo, that bassline is so mean,’” he told J.Period. “I was DJing back then and I used to play that at the party and I used see how how people would react. That shit was just knocking.”
The bassline was the perfect starting point, but finding the right balance of sound required additional crate digging. While breaking down the layering of samples needed to achieve the final version of “Award Tour”, Tip told Vibe magazine “It’s all about that bassline. I just wanted to flip it, so I went through some more records and I got that (Fender) Rhodes to counter the melody in the bassline.”
“I’m like a little scientist. So it’s about sonics — watching how people react to certain things.”
In addition to a the perfect bassline and Fender Rhodes sample, Q-Tip wanted to have perfect drums to match. “I love the drums on ‘Award Tour…I wanted some drums that would smack that shit out the park.’” he told Vibe.
Beyond “Award Tour”, epic drums were a goal of his throughout the entire Midnight Marauders album. “These are some epic drum sounds that will tear your fucking head off,” he told Vibe while describing the percussion on the album. “And there are ways you can get that sound on different levels too. The drums don’t always have to be super loud…That’s the whole vibe of Tribe’s drum sound I was trying to go for.”
The track “Behind The Scenes ‘Don’t Walk Away’” from J.Period’s The [Abstract] Best Vol. 1 makes for an excellent audio companion to “Award Tour”. Utilizing interview snippets with Q-Tip, J.Period mixes together the different elements of “Award Tour” with Tip’s description of making the track. The end result provides deeper understanding of how the song was made and showcases just how keen Q-Tip’s ear for laying samples is.
“These are some epic drum sounds that will tear your fucking head off.”
Breaking down his process for the Genius website, J.Period said of the track, “I take Q-Tip singing the bassline of Jade, “Don’t Walk Away,” literally exactly that, and make that a loop behind what he’s saying. And then he talks about the Weldon Irvine sample, and then I take the Weldon Irvine sample and lay that over the top of it and make it part of the beat, so I’m constructing what he’s talking about while he’s talking about it.”
By the end of “Behind The Scenes ‘Don’t Walk Away’”, Q-Tip’s ability to take a Jade bassline and turn it into “Award Tour” leaves the listener in awe. But for Tip, it’s business as usual. “I’m like a little scientist,” he says at the end of the track. “So it’s about sonics — watching how people react to certain things.”
A Tribe Called Quest has a new album dropping soon. Learn more by visiting their website. Connect with J.Period on various forms of social media through his website. Download the full-length The [Abstract] Best” Vol. 1 for free here.
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