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ALBUM REVIEW

  

18 years later, A Tribe Called Quest returns with one of the most prolific albums of the year. 

Easily one of hip-hop’s most influential groups, A Tribe Called Quest has always been known for their ability to balance introspective and philosophical rhymes with melodic, hard-hitting beats. A lot has changed in 18 years though. Not only has hip hop, and the country it was born in, changed mightily, but founding member Phife Dawg passed away earlier this year. After years of being at odds, the group decided to come together and record a new album. Unfortunately, Phife Dawg passed away during the recording process in March after a long battle with diabetes. With all of these different factors weighing on the legendary group, it is easy to wonder what role this would play throughout the project. The result is a triumphant one, addressing the nation’s issues, embracing hip-hop’s new age, and reflecting on the legend that is Phife Dawg. 

Photo by: Lukas Maeder

Photo by: Lukas Maeder

We got it From Here… sounds very much like what we have come to expect from a Tribe album with the classic boom-bap East Coast feel and jazz influence, but it also uses other musical influences to fuel production.  While the production on the album is diverse, nothing sounds out of place. The project weaves through different sounds from a sample of “Benny and the Jets” on “Solid Wall of Sound”— which included vocals and piano playing by Elton John himself — to the Dilla inspired production on “Whateva Will Be,” in addition to all the live instrumentation utilized throughout the album giving it a fresh and lively sound. 

Lyrically, the album takes no prisoners. From the opening record “The Space Program,” Phife and Q-Tip rap in unison “we gotta get it together for brothers/We gotta get it together for sisters,” quickly addressing the overt sociopolitical themes found throughout the album. But as Tribe is quick to rattle off socially conscious rhymes, they are just as quick to deliver witty bars acknowledging their legendary status in the game. “I take zero for granted, I honors my gift/ Champion pen game, plus I’m freestyle equipped,” Phife boasts in “Black Spasmodic.” We got it from Here… even gives a sense of vulnerability as Q-Tip and Jarobi White reflected on fellow member Phife, particularly on the song “Lost Somebody.” With a smooth yet chilling chorus from Katia Cadet this song creates a feeling of optimistic grief as she sings, “No more crying, he’s in sunshine/He’s alright now, see his wings.” Although a song of grief, the song does not create a sad mood—instead, it is a touching tribute as the album moves into its final act. 

If We got it from Here… is ATCQ’s retirement party, then the guests came prepared to pay their respects to the group one last time. Every guest showed up in peak form on the album. Ranging from Kendrick Lamar’s socially conscious verse on “Conrad Tokyo,” to Kanye West delivering a repetitive hook on “The Killing Season,” or even Jack White delivering a sporadic guitar solo at the end of “Lost Somebody,” no guest felt out of place on the album. Of course, what is a Tribe album without longtime collaborators Busta Rhymes, Consequence, and part-time member Jarobi White? Busta and Cons are featured heavily on the album rekindling much of the flavor from ATCQ albums of the past. While Jarobi White seemed like he never left as he weaves in and out of couplets with Q-Tip and Phife Dawg on records like “The Space Program.”  White showed that although his rap career has been sparse, his skills as an emcee were sharper than ever.  

Photo by: Billboard

Photo by: Billboard

A Tribe Called Quest has been able to achieve something most artists cannot after an extended hiatus; they are able to deliver an album for the times while simultaneously staying true to themselves. We got it from Here… does not rest on nostalgia; it delivers a raw and relevant message. This album puts the group’s growth and maturity on full display. Instead of solely relying on the low-end sounds and jazz sampling, —which is still very apparent on the album—the group incorporated different sounds while maintaining a cohesive sound with a vintage Tribe feel. The project fully displays the group’s maturity and growth. If this is in fact Tribe’s final album, it was a definitive final statement by some of the best to ever do it.