A-Tribe-Called-Quest-We-Got-It-From-Here-Thank-You-4-Your-Service-album-cover-art.jpgImage Courtesy of the Artist's website

“It’s time to go left and not right.”

A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) has finally released a new album after 18 years. This album is also the first since the death of Phife Dawg, who died earlier this year in March. 

The album comes as a surprise to many who had long believed that the Tribe would never trade bars again. They had, after all, disbanded in 1998. In the fall of last year, the group reunited for a performance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, triggering a desire in the members to add to their discography.

The group had a highly influential run in the ’90s—they were dubbed the pioneers of the alternative hip hop scene. They were known for their socially conscious lyrics (see: “The Infamous Date Rape”) mixed with street-friendly beats and jazz influences (see: “Award Tour”), and have been cited as inspirations for Mos Def, MF Doom and Kid Cudi. It is unsurprising that the announcement of their new album, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016), generated enough hype to fill up a Mr. Worldwide-level club. The Nov. 11 release was seen as an impossibly rare musical moment: the reappearance of a well-loved and respected act with their talents still intact.

The album is part tribute and part reunion. It is their first true collaboration since the group’s disbandment, and Phife’s lyrical and sonic fingerprint haunt the record. 

The album also seems to come at a perfect moment in history and is very much a product of its time. In light of the election of Donald Trump, ATCQ’s lyrics hit an astonishingly relevant place. In the third track, “We the People,” Q-Tip raps about an America that grows increasingly hostile towards minorities, LGBTQ+ and the poor: “All you black folks, you must go/ All you Mexicans, you must go/And all you poor folks, you must go/ Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways.”

We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service (2016) carries all the punch of their original music and updates their sound for 2016 with guests like André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Jack White and Kanye West. In “Solid Wall of Sound,” Elton John appears and uses his own words from his 1973 song “Bennie and the Jets.” In the days of ATCQ’s original reign, an artist such as Elton John would have only been available to them via sampling. John’s interpolation is reminiscent of ATCQ’s “Can I Kick It?”, which sampled Lou Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” The mingling of ’70s jazz and rap is something that the Tribe became famous for, but it also pushes the group into the present; their guests and lyrics reflect the state of rap in 2016.   

The political message and quality of music in this album would have been enough to make the record worth listening to. But the music is also so full of love for the craft of hip hop and Phife’s memory, making it a perfect and heartbreaking farewell.

In the penultimate song on the album, “Ego,” Q-Tip raps, “This is the last Tribe and our Ego hopes that you felt us,” signifying that this album is their last, and sending off ATCQ on the wave of positivity that they deserve. And yes, Q-Tip. We felt you.

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