First Thoughts: A Tribe Called Quest's 'We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service'
Whatagwan with the crew?
From the moment “The Space Program” starts, so do the emotions. As cliche a phrase it may be, it truly is the beginning of the end. A Tribe Called Quest’s new album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, is the masterful finale that fans and the Hip-Hop community have been unknowingly waiting for. Is it bittersweet? Without a doubt. But it could not be any better.
The scariest aspect of the album, is the fact that Tribe, collectively, haven’t missed a beat. Eighteen years after The Love Movement, the crew is in full effect, serving up what a Tribe album would sound like in the new millennium. They aren’t concerned with appealing to a new audience or going out of their way to make a statement (who would have thought Donald Trump being elected president and a new ATCQ project would come in the same week?), they’re doing them… and fucks are gladly not given.
There’s a deep layer of nostalgia to We Got It, which makes it somewhat difficult to get through. Every song completed is just one less that you have to enjoy from the 18-track set, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any fun along the way. Songs such as “The Space Program,” “Whatever Will Be,” and “Kids,” play with the same soulful rhythms that the band’s music tends to evoke, while spots of darkness (“The Killing Season,” “Lost Somebody) demonstrate some of the rougher times that were had during the creation of this album.
Leading the charge is Q-Tip, whose extra calm, yet very knowledgable, rhymes feel highly motivated, inspired, and might be his best work with the group since The Low End Theory. Not that there is any need to prove who he is as an artist, but his energy between the two albums are similar in the sense of his eagerness to remind people of why his band is one of the most respected in music, period.
Feature contributions are top notch. When a handful of guest artists were announced, they weren’t anything to scoff at. We’re talking Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, and the legendary Elton John. Though White and Sir Elton aren’t the first names you’d expect on a Hip-Hop record, they don’t detract from what we love the Tribe for. They merely elevate the sonic plane that the band already lives on. In addition to the names already mentioned, Consequence, Talib Kweli, Anderson .Paak, and a guy called West also appear. Of course, it would be an insult to not mention that unofficial fifth member Busta Rhymes feels right at home on the album and it’s refreshing to hear him kick those thunderous dragon rhymes that made him the perfect contrasting sound to the crew’s earlier material.
Through all the pain and joy that comes with the new tunes, you can most certainly count on Phife Dawg to be Phife Dawg. With his trademark braggadocio and witty confidence bursting throughout each of his appearances, it’d be a challenge to listen to his voice and not feel some sort of sorrow. Mind you, that said sorrow wouldn’t be out of the sadness of his passing, it would be because the Trini Gladiator never lost it, and still left us with something to remember him by. Much like Q-Tip, the inspiration in each verse is evident, to the point where the pair echo their dynamic from previous songs “Can I Kick It?” and “Check the Rhime.”
We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is a trip down memory lane and a goodbye to the fans. In a year chock full of stellar releases, the Tribe’s new album manages to stand apart for it’s solid production and funkadelic essence, to say the least. While the album serves as both their final album and a heartbreaking farewell to the Five Foot Assassin, the album recaptures why one would fall in love with Hip-Hop in the first place. At it’s barest, it has united generations of people from the youth to the elderly and who knows that better than A Tribe Called Quest? Effortless and hypnotizing, there’s no better a way to close out an unblemished discography.
On behalf of fans ‘round the world, all that there is left to say is, nah Tribe… thank you.
Check out some of the standouts from We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service below.
Like the grown men that they are, the Tribe acknowledge their older head status (for lack of a better term) and kick a bit of their smarts for the changing times while not compromising themselves. “Been trill n—a, process the data,” Jarobi and Q-Tip spit together. In the combo track, that also features Bussa Bus, the Abstract fires off one of the album’s more memorable lines, saying, “Talk to Joey, Earl, Kendrick, and Cole, gatekeepers of flow/ They are extensions of instinctual soul,” effectively passing the torch to the current wave of emcees.
Calling on Andre 3000 for a couple of verses, this track merely hints at what the Outkast and Tribe collaborative album would have sounded like. Blessing listeners with some incredible wordplay, Three Stacks kicks off the song with “I ain’t even gon’ lie, I was probably high/ Just forgot to call you back, simple as that/ I ain’t no almanac, so lick my dictionary/ I might just call a cab ’cause I dig canary/ Yellow accents on a dark bitch.” Yeah, that album would have been insane.
“The Killing Season”
With cypher-like delivery, Talib Kweli, Consequence, and Jarobi each trade verses that focus on some of the harsh realities this universe might bestow upon you. While Talib’s lyrics expectedly stick to your ribs, and the Cons is definitely on point, it’s Jarobi’s killer rhymes and rhythm that win the song. “Marks and scars, we own it, only makes for tougher skin/ Helps us actualize the actual greatness held within/ Been on the wrong team so much, can’t recognize a win/ Seems like my only crime is having melanin,” the emcee teaches. Serving as the glue to a pretty introspective song is Kanye West on the hook, repeating “They sold ya, sold ya, sold ya.” Take it how you want to.
The album’s closer and most tear-inducing track on the album is our goodbye to Phife. It’s not easy listen once the tone and subject matter settles. While we get some great moments from the entire album, Busta Rhymes easily steals the emotional foundation with his hook “Phife Dawg, whatagwan with the crew?/ Nuff ting, that’s why me had to come through/ Phife Dawg, you spit wicked every verse/ The north said respect the Trini man first/ Phife Dawg, I know you had the man shook up/ Good shit ’cause you a mastermind that cook up.” A solid tribute as is, the moment when Phife’s verse ends, it’s a brutal reality check that we will never hear this man demolish emcees on the mic, only in the way that Phife could…