Release Date: Nov 11, 2016
Record label: Epic
Genre(s): Rap, East Coast Rap, Jazz-Rap
One of hip-hop’s most defiantly individual collectives, A Tribe Called Quest made a crater-sized imprint on 90s rap culture with their first three albums People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm, The Low End Theory, and Midnight Marauders. Performed over irresistible backing tracks constructed from obscure soul, funk and jazz samples, their politically astute lyrics were a rare positivist voice in a genre often consumed by nihilism. As fame ensued cracks began to appear in the relationship between rappers Q Tip and Phife Dawg however, and not even the addition of J Dilla as producer could fully atone for the division evident in their final two albums, Beats, Rhymes And Life and The Love Movement.
For most hip-hop fans, whatâ€™s considered the genreâ€™s â€œGolden Ageâ€ came to an end at some point in the late nineties or early part of the twenty-first century. While people like Jay-Z, Nas, and Wu-Tang Clan managed to remain relevant throughout the new millennium; for many people the genreâ€™s mainstream hasnâ€™t recaptured the consistent high levels of years gone by in quite some time. A few chance reunions, plus an appearance on The Tonight Show, in 2015 gave many hope that one of the eraâ€™s greats, A Tribe Called Quest, might make a return.
The first lines on A Tribe Called Quest’s first album in 18 years are “It’s time to go left and not right / Gotta get it together forever / Gotta get it together for brothers / Gotta get it together for sisters. ” On November 8, we did nothing of the sort. But it’s gotta be for the best that the late, great Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor left this world without ever finding out how it ends; he won’t have to witness the “mass unblackening” foretold on astonishing opening track “The Space Program.
A Tribe Called Quest’s new, sixth album We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service is unprecedented in hip-hop. It’s difficult to recall another group within this still young genre with an 18-year gap between albums, or anything close to it. Tribe publicly disbanded in 1998, tried various times over the years to reunite and managed a handful of dynamic but nostalgia-based reunion shows and mini-tours over the past decade.
Since their 1990 debut, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, A Tribe Called Quest have been forward-thinking, presenting their albums as full-length meditations on sound and society. They didn’t break new ground as much as they dug deeper into the lands beneath their feet, turning stones and cultivating fertile soil, unearthing the past and tending the roots, with album-length suites centered around loose conceits—the light diary of Instinctive Travels, the aural dive into drums, bass, and downbeats of 1991’s The Low End Theory, the pan-African flight of 1993’s Midnight Marauders, the dysfunction of hip-hop’s materialism on 1996’s Beats, Rhymes and Life, and the yearning sadness of 1998’s The Love Movement. The latter strived to serve as a healing elixir and balm for what was, up until recently, the swan song for one of the greatest acts that hip-hop has ever produced.
The sheer number of guests, the long wait since their last album, the shifting tides of hip hop -- all these factors could have led to We Got It being a disappointment. Amazingly, it turns out to be almost the exact opposite. Thanks to Q-Tip's visionary and pleasingly weird production, which draws from golden age hip-hop, old-school jazz, odd samples, dub reggae, and interplanetary electro, the fact the neither he nor Phife have lost even a small percentage of a step, and the seamlessly integrated contributions from the guests (especially Paak on "Moving Backwards"), the album is vibrant, intense, and alive.
There is no hip-hop lover on earth who can truthfully say they haven't been touched by A Tribe Called Quest. They have been the quiet mainstay of hip-hop for decades and their sixth and final album, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, is a fitting end to our instinctive travels with this beloved group.Throughout the record, Tribe manage to deliver an updated sound, yet retain the vintage charm that has come to distinguish them.
Elevated to the status of gods thanks to their 1990s run, A Tribe Called Quest’s legacy amounts to a mostly pristine pinnacle in a youth-driven genre where elders are known to eventually disappoint. Thus, news of them stepping back up to bat within months of co-captain Phife Dawg’s earthly departure was met with concurrent excitement and skepticism. Despite their catalog arguably lacking major missteps, the greatest concern about their latter day reunion was the possibility of technological advances randomly inserting the Five Foot Assassin’s ghost over beats he never physically rapped on à la 2Pac and Biggie’s posthumous works.
The comeback album tends to be tricky for a lot of artists. However, the circumstances were uniquely difficult for A Tribe Called Quest in returning with their sixth album and first in 18 years, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service. The group’s original home of New York City (or, more specifically, the borough of Queens) is no longer the uncontested rap mecca it once was, as the scenes and styles of places like Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles more consistently thrill newer generations of listeners.
A Tribe Called Quest :: We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your ServiceEpic RecordsAuthor: Steve 'Flash' JuonIt has taken a few weeks for me personally to digest and absorb this album. I had already made my peace with A Tribe Called Quest saying farewell with "The Love Movement" almost two decades ago. I think I personally enjoyed the album more than the contributor who wrote it up for us, but I can also relate to her feeling of bitterness that this "final collection" was far from the musical or creative pinnacle of their career.
New York City hasn’t been the home of hip hop for quite a long time. Where once Eric B. & Rakim, the Beastie Boys and everyone who called themselves a member of the Native Tongues (that’s everyone from Jungle Brothers to De La Soul to, of course, A Tribe Called Quest) all lived in a musical melting pot, the sound of hip hop has spread. Be that to Chicago, LA or Atlanta, the idea of hip hop has morphed and sounds changed drastically since when DJ Kool Herc was cutting up funk records.
Recorded shortly before the death of founding member Phife Dawg, this is the final album from the group that opened a new route for hip-hop in the 90s. Jazzy, cheeky and often political, the New Yorkers’ sixth album serves as the final chapter of their story and a clarion call for others to follow their path. It is full of nods to the past, with musical echoes of their most indelible songs and contributions from their longest-standing collaborators, notably Busta Rhymes.
Over three decades since their formation and eighteen years since their last album, A Tribe Called Quest have released their swan song. The most immediate aspect of ‘We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service’ is that it’s neither a throwback to a time long past nor is it a ham-fisted attempt to reinvent and keep up with the times. Instead it’s what ATCQ has always been; completely comfortable with its place in the world.
The first album in 18 years from exploratory, jazz-traveling rap heroes A Tribe Called Quest effortlessly chronicles the chaotic crescendo of the 2016 election: a warning of "mass un-blackening," dark-humored crooning about intolerance ("Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways") and perceptive words about the media's culpability in everything ("Why y'all cool with the fuckery/Trump and the SNL hilarity/Troublesome times, kid, no times for comedy"). The whole album ends with late rapper Phife Dawg taking the nickname "the Donald" back from our oncoming bigot-in-chief. Recorded well before the election, it serves as the hands-down best musical release valve the confused and angry segment of America has gotten since Election Day.
Thanks to the ascendancy of gangsta rap, to Biggie and Tupac, the wider public often expects rappers to die violently. Phife Dawg, from A Tribe Called Quest, passed away in March from complications arising from being a “funky diabetic”. It’s just one of the many ways in which Tribe continue to differ markedly from the more dominant, reductive hip-hop narratives.
In the ‘80s, jazz finally went legitimate. Once considered a lesser means of expression due to America’s adulation of Eurocentric culture, the African-American tradition became high art dissected by academics, a garment worn by the upper-middle class. The Cosby Show, formerly the prototypical standard for the successful black family, had a jazz-inflected theme song.
It’s hard not to feel a flood of gratitude for the mere existence of this record. Over the course of five albums and eight years, A Tribe Called Quest accomplished effortlessly and consistently what few others could do once. It’s an impossible ideal: ill and smart; funny and dumb; each sample pulled from some primordial, easygoing ether and the drums knocking insistently, elementally, like they’d been banging since the dawn of time.
Entire books could be written A Tribe Called Quest’s influence on hip-hop with their first three albums. To keep things brief, their focus on positivity and away from macho-violence has influenced Talib Kweli; their use of organic instruments with hiring Ron Carter (of Miles Davis fame) on “Verses from the Abstract” has influenced OutKast’s Andre 3000; their love of jazz rap as a whole has influenced Kendrick Lamar. All of whom appear on We Got It from Here...
The Friday after Donald Trump became the U.S. president-elect, we learned that 82-year-old Leonard Cohen had died and A Tribe Called Quest had released their first album in 18 years. While there’s no silver lining in sight for a world grappling with a wrong-headed, depressingly backward election result, Cohen’s passing and Tribe’s resurrection were bittersweet.