The Vignette: A Tribe Called Quest, “Butter”, & Natural Beauty


The popularity of fads changes as surely as the seasons do. As human beings, we constantly influence one another with our contrasting behavioral patterns and thought processes, commonly resulting in us turning the “it” thing into something that can go from being flavor of the month to being out of style, and back again. However, when a trend becomes more transcendent and everlasting, it becomes what is known as a movement. While rare in comparison to the frequency of a fad, a movement has an undeniable presence and drastically affects our lifestyles. And when it comes to movements, A Tribe Called Quest qualified just as well in the 90’s as the natural beauty movement for women does today.

In 1991, legendary hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest released The Low End Theory and were met with an incredible amount of critical acclaim. During the prime of what is commonly referred to as the “golden era” of hip hop music, Tribe managed to further raise the bar for the quality of music and set their footprints in history with records such as “Check The Rhime” and “Scenario”, transcending and influencing the culture from then on.

Although The Low End Theory is full of notable records, one of the more storied tracks from the album is none other than the Phife Dawg solo cut “Butter”. In the absence of partner in rhyme Q-Tip, Phife utilized “Butter” to showcase his lyrical improvement while waxing poetics about one of Tribe’s favorite topics – women. After detailing his longstanding prowess with the opposite sex and noting the experiences that ultimately changed his perspective on women, The Funky Diabetic closes the record by providing a wake-up call for the ladies who fail to embrace their natural beauty and instead manufacture their outer appearance. With lyrics like “if your hair and eyes were real, I wouldn’t have dissed you”, Phife made it clear that a woman’s true beauty lied in her embracing her true self rather than making the effort to mimic someone else. In testament to the timeless status of the record, Phife’s statements on “Butter” are just as relevant today as they were twenty years ago.

In recent years, women around the world have begun to latch onto the idea of embracing their natural beauty. From hairstyles, to cosmetics, and everything in between, it is becoming increasingly popular amongst women to enjoy being beautiful by maintaining their innate characteristics. Technology has streamlined a ton of alternative options for women regarding their appearance, including things like hair weaves, contact lenses, makeup, and plastic surgery. These enhancements have been made more accessible and are more heavily promoted in the new millennium, creating a culture that encourages women to take drastic measures to look more like the images they see on a daily basis. While it is apparent that women are being sold a product to capitalize on the personification of the ideal woman, women worldwide have become aware of the power that their inner beauty holds, and have begun to embrace it.

An example of women embracing their natural beauty and features, African-American women especially are moving away from chemicals and wearing more natural hair products and styles. (Credit to Avery Scott)

An example of women embracing their natural beauty and features, African-American women especially are moving away from chemicals and wearing more natural hair products and styles. (Credit to Avery Scott)

Phife’s disapproval of the “bionic lady” is a sentiment that is gaining momentum in 2014 despite what is being marketed to women by mainstream influences. For instance, entities such as the American Association of Dermatologists have been urging women to move away from skin enhancing techniques such as tanning, and instead encourage women to embrace their natural skin tones. This is due to women having an increased risk in the development of melanoma (skin cancer) from beauty enhancement methods such as tanning. In addition, research groups such as Mintel have reported a rise in the percentage of women who abstain from the use of relaxers and chemical products on their hair, and instead opt for more organic hair solutions (especially African-American women, who had a reported 70% natural hair population in 2013). The natural beauty movement has even found its way to social media, with phrases such as “team natural” having a presence on social networks and mainstream figures such as Beyoncé Knowles advocating for the cause. With all things considered, the female population beginning to embrace its inner allure has become a lot more than a trend and should serve as a means for the uplifting of women around the globe.

As the year progresses, the natural beauty movement amongst women will be intriguing to pay attention to. Noting the transcendent manner in which A Tribe Called Quest changed music, this movement that we are witnessing may serve to impact the female population in a way far greater than we can imagine. The natural beauty movement should result in a healthier, more confident, and more organic female population in the year 2014 and beyond. In the immortal words of Phife Dawg, “If you really liked yourself, you would just try and be you”. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see just how much more women will learn to like themselves.

One thought on “The Vignette: A Tribe Called Quest, “Butter”, & Natural Beauty

  1. This piece made me want to go back and listen to The Low In End Theory. I am not sure if I agreed that being the way you naturally came into this earth as a movement of something I see blacj woman actually keeping up with. Movements are powerful and long lasting. Civil Rights and Pan-African are movenents. But with natural in every sense of the word…especially hair, I can not say that is a movement. I have witnessed multiple woman attempt and give up on ‘going’ natural v
    Because from the beginning there sense of what is beautiful in natural hair is distorted. Many woman fantasize long bouncy shirly temple type curls as a result of laying off the chemicles. However, they never take a look back at their childhood pre-perm photos to figure out if that is in their stars. And then shortly give up or wear weaves to mask the self hate. I have been natural since 6th grade, now 25, good, bad, ugly, manageble and unruly I have embraced my hair and have always received compliments. I feel like black woman have always been the standard of beauty and many other culture try their hardest to emulate us. From tanning to twerking to embracing the beauty in a larger more round back side. It seems that we are the only people still missing the fact that we are beautiful just the way God made us. Thanks for the article!

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