After an 18-year hiatus, A Tribe Called Quest shows up on their latest and final project “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your service.” The sound and style they constructed in the early ’90s has aged gracefully.
Consisting of four members’ Q Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jarobi White, and the late Phife Dawg, who passed away earlier this year during the period in which this album was being recorded, A Tribe Called Quest captivated the genre of hip hop with their unique and progressive sound which was heavily inspired by jazz to craft the timeless musical classics “The Low End Theory” and “Midnight Marauders,” which preached social awareness, black unity and positivity. These elements that would later go on to become benchmarks for artists who came years later,like Outkast, Kanye West, J DIlla and Kendrick Lamar.
Here on “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service” Tribe goes all out, picking up right where they left off in 1998. With the help of previous affiliates like Busta Rhymes and Consequence along with Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, Anderson Paak, Jack White and even Elton John, this album is jam-packed with enough star power salivate listeners of all set of ears.
Molded with layered production, “The Space Program” kicks the first disc of the album off with a theme of lifting off and soaring over the obstacles that we (African Americans) face today. However, through the verse from Q Tip, Phife and Jarobi we get the sense that even in 2016 overall change has yet to come for all through. This is mainly because typically opportunities as high a space programs aren’t always offered to minorities which means they don’t always get the same opportunities as others.
This track showcases the cleverness of how the group uses the title as a double entendre to push their agenda. The same theme is somewhat continued on the “We the People….” a track that not only highlights the oppression of African Americans, but also for Hispanics, Muslims, and members of the LGBT community as well. It is also important to note that with the recent results and events that led up to the 2016 election, this particular track gains even more relevance in the way that popular anthems such as “Alright” and “Fight The Power” have in the past.
On “Dis Generation,” Tribe sheds light on the current state of hip hop. While the landscape of the genre has changed since the last time Tribe was around, they note that there are still a few young artists who have managed to stay true to the aesthetic and values that they once held during their prime and still to this day. Q Tip even goes as far to commemorate names such as Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, Joey Bada$$ and J. Cole as just a few emcees whom he feels are ahead of the pack in this current generation.
Andre 3000 finally gets his collaboration with his idols on “Kids…” a track that speaks to the youth about what is real and what is not. Q Tip and Andre 3000 do a great job at painting a picture of hot vulnerable the ears of our youth are and that when they hear their favorite rapper or entertainer living a certain lifestyle they think that it can happen to them too. However, things don’t always go that route and most of the materialistic things that are showcased are in fact just for show and tell.
“Melatonin” brings up the topic of addiction and the misusage toward prescription drugs/medication. Q Tip states that many rappers use drugs to take the edge off while they are in the act of something that causes them to become anxious. It’s the success and the ability to overcome the anxiety that ultimately fuels the addiction because the rapper will use the drug as a go to more times than none thinking that it will provide the same help again and again.
Disc two opens with “Mobius” another multi-layered track that features Consequence who spits throughout the first part of the song. However, in my opinion once the beat shifts we get a classic Busta Rhyme sounding verse where Busta himself delivers a sporadic and energetic outing that takes over the track.
“The Killing Season” is a perfect track that brings attention to the recent acts of police brutality along with the lives of many Black citizens and Black political leaders. The track sandwiched together by a conscious verse from Talib Kweli whose vocals along with the beat are low pitched to bring a grimier tone to the track. This changes once as the beat lifts like a breath of fresh air and we get Kanye West on the hook with the line “They sold ya, sold ya, sold ya”, which is a clever use of wordplay which mean they sold ya soul ya soldier. To go into more depth that line really means many Blacks today and since the early days of slavery have been being sold off in the war that is the daily struggle and in some instances we are all soldiers fighting battles.
Singer and songwriter Anderson Paak. takes his moment and owns up to it on “Movin Backwards”. Although Paak discusses his backstory and rise to fame something he has done in the past, this time he mentions that he is still hungry for more and won’t stop until he gets there while also keeping in the back of his mind that he can quickly fall back to where he once was if he makes the wrong move. Q Tip comes in with a verse that seems to offer guidance to the young Paak as he mentions that he was once content until he was faced with his own demons which allowed him to become the man he is today by making great choices.
“Conrad Tokyo” is another politically charged track that expresses the feeling of unease from both Phife Dawg and Kendrick Lamar. Phife even takes the chance to show his frustrations towards the so-called mumble rappers that heavily dominate the radio landscape of today’s hip hop. Kendrick spits a somewhat apocalyptic style verse very similar to what was said on the “untitled 01 | 08.19.2014.” from his latest EP “untitled unmastered.”
“Lost Somebody” and “The Donald” find the group showing their respects to their fallen member Phife Dawg. Both tracks individually leave the listener with the realization that the emcee is gone while also making sure to keep his spirit alive throughout the tracks as well through references of his Haitian culture and tag-lines. Throughout the recording of this album many of the members spoke about how they gained their chemistry back after years of tension mainly due to Phife and Q Tip. In the end the two were able to squash their differences even if it was for a short time. After Phife’s passing the group had doubts about finishing up the project but eventually felt that it was only right to finish up the album because that is what Phife would’ve wanted.
“We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service” is an amazing piece of work that has the guts to stand toe-to-toe the best albums of 2016. In a new era of hip hop, A Tribe Called Quest still has a relevant message to audiences of all ages and colors. With a career that has been filled with many successes, Tribe finds a way to, yet again, Triumph in the wake of its biggest Tragedy.