This song is based around a sample from Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side
." Typical of A Tribe Called Quest's laid-back style, they rap about how they love what they do using clever rhymes and cultural references. To "Kick It" means to hang out and have fun.
In a 2011 interview with Hip Hop DX
, A Tribe Called Quest rapper Phife Dawg explained that the group has never received royalties from this song because of the Lou Reed sample. Apparently Reed has earned money from the track and though Dawg is thankful he let his group use "Walk on the Wild Side," he's disappointed that Reed hasn't bothered to offer to spread the wealth.
The line, "Mr. Dinkins won't you please be my mayor?" is a reference to David Dinkins, who did indeed become mayor - the first black mayor of New York City. Dinkins took office in 1990 and had the position until 1993 when he lost to Rudy Giuliani.
The reoccurring line "Err, you can…" was sampled from a children's TV show in the UK called SuperTed. The line comes from a character named Spotty, voiced by actor John Pertwee of Dr. Who fame.
A Tribe Called Quest used a slightly different version of the song for the music video. The beat in the video is dubbed the "Spirit Mix" as it uses additional samples. In the clip, the group is seen literally kicking the word "It" through film sets, construction sites, and alleys around New York City.
A track from the group's debut album, there are just two verses in the lyric; Q-Tip takes the first one and Phife Dawg does the second. Phife, who was just 19 when he recorded it, in later years said that he had a hard time listening to his verse because he didn't like the way his voice sounded back then - he thought it was too high-pitched.
A Tribe Called Quest "kicked" off the "Yo! Unplugged Rap" episode of MTV Unplugged
with an acoustic performance of this song. The 1991 episode, famous for LL Cool J's ribald version of "Mama Said Knock You Out
," marked the first time rappers appeared on the show.
When the People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm album was re-released in 2015, the group performed this song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. It marked their first TV appearance in 15 years.
The actor Sacha Baron Cohen made fun of "Can I Kick It?" in his sitcom Da Ali G Show. As a similar beat played, Cohen would rap as Ali G, changing the line to "Can I nick it?"
The Swedish pop singer Lykke Li has been known to close her live shows with a cover of this song.