A Tribe Called Quest is hip-hop personified.
Their music catalog ranges from a decade of funk-infused beats, jazz samples and head-bobbing instrumentals that inspire the average listener to not only have a great time, but get lost in the grounded nature of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s wordplay. Those who witnessed their meteoric rise to stardom in the 90s are blessed beyond their understanding, and ’till this day the transcendent stylings of their previous work (more specifically their first three albums) stand up tall amongst the body of work from today’s hip-hop offerings.
A Celebration of Hip-Hop, A Re-acknowledging of Society
We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service has done a great many things since it’s relatively sudden release this past November, but one of them is not resort to taking a victory lap. Off the heels of Phife Dawg’s mournful passing, Q-Tip, Jarobi White and DJ/Producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad decided to mold the project they were already constructing (Side note: they still had one more album under their Epic Records label), pulled over a large tabling of featured artists (Consequence, Andre Benjamin, Busta Rhymes, Elton John, Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, etc.), and re-established the group’s style of hip-hop with a more modern touch.
Not only does it sound absolutely incredible (seriously, blast this thing behind some home speakers or something), but it pays homage to the genre Q-Tip and co. fell in love with growing up: celebrating everything hip-hop represents while aggressively tackling both the context and musical aesthetic it has always preached about.
The featured artists are not only here for flavor, as each and every one of their appearances alongside the Tribe add a weight, a purpose, and a sense of togetherness to every beat, hook, and lyric. When Andre 3000 jumps on “Kids…” with Q-Tip to gloss over the tainted state of influences and tendencies children absorb, the southern-inspired hook complements their fluid back-and-forth with all the grace – and social commentary – of an Outkast joint. The dynamic duo of Consequence and Busta Rhymes in “Mobius” create an entirely new style of self-aware Tribe music, with the former artist lobbing up a plethora of social issues (pre-conceived notions against rappers, the media, etc.) for the latter to slam down with a flurry of lyrical vengeance.
We should even take a moment to acknowledge “Melatonin”, one of my personal favorites in this album. Here, Q-Tip gives us a wildly vivid idea of the influence of drugs on artists and its correlation to people dealing with incessant fame, then closes it out with a hypnotizing outro following Abbey Smith’s excellent chorus.
Tribe is Life
In the grand scheme of things, We Got it From Here is a love letter to both hip-hop and those who have helped keep it alive, but the essence of Tribe’s ambitions are not forgotten for a second. Whether you listen to the entrancing piano and synthesizer of the John Elton-featured “Solid Wall of Sound” or the Jack White-peppered guitar sweeping through the Jazz stylings of “Ego”, ATCQ reinstate their position as one of the greatest musical acts we’ve come to witness while remaining extraordinarily innovative – and refreshingly humble. Elsewhere, they sendoff Phife Dawg in the best possible way, leaving the memory of his legacy all over their work here without wallowing in his loss. It’s a beautiful album that reminds us of the preciousness of life and the swiftness in which it can be taken away, but not before being about the four guys demonstrating how they elevated a music genre to new heights twenty-six years ago.