Album Review: A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
At a time when the world is caught up in rife patterns of disarray, questionable world leadership and poignant truth, there is plenty of room for necessary and compelling music. No other group could perhaps better exhibit such a truthful musicianship than the mighty A Tribe Called Quest. Since the early days in the boulevard of Linden, the group paved the way with a vibrant ascent into alternative hip-hop music. Now more than ever is there something to be meticulously communicated through conscious narrative. Poetically honest, powerful and emotional, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is the profound fifth and final chapter in the ATCQ songbook. For super fans, it comes as the greatest gift, for others, an insight into the creative explosion that entreats the group. The inner workings of a perfect last record - a humble and artful healing through sound, pulsing momentum and unprecedented skill.
18 years since the group’s previous record A Love Movement and a subsequent dissolve following contrasting interests, Q-Tip, Jarobi White, Ali Shaheed Muhammad & the late, great Phife Dawg have boldly teamed up again with an album of colossal proportions to boot. The record carries with it a refreshed and resolute sound design, a master crafted sample use and an unparalleled lyrical intensity robust enough to rival anything from the current day. Invigorating rapping detail infiltrates the soul from the earliest moments in the album’s opener The Space Program. Phife and Tip bless the mic with a mantra delivered simultaneously; “Gotta get it together forever/Gotta get it together for brothers/Gotta get it together for sisters” they powerfully affirm. An obedient rapping articulation soon ensues as Jarobi White confides in lyrical themes of racial divide and political matters. Proper piano chords show love to a contemporary production design whilst giving a nod to the historic boom-bap sound incorporated in much of the group’s earlier releases. The record is undeniably the most politically charged album from ATCQ, with tracks such as We The People… defining the morality of today’s climate. The lyrical valour follows themes of anti-black violence, white supremacy, equality and government dissatisfaction. Most powerful however are the words “All you Black folks, you must go” as they echo in the hook line, haunting the listener with a piercing sincerity.
The album has a rich feature list as well, with Elton John, Jack White, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Andre 3000 all gracing the tracklist. Elton’s vocals transmit throughout Solid Wall of Sound before Phife is joined by Busta Rhymes as the pair fastly manoeuvre in and out of a skilled Carribean accented rap energy. The record is noble, natural and prolific. Their legacy has been left intact upon its completion, utilising thought-provoking lyrical heat and a series of symbolic instrumentation numbers – wholly encapsulating the group’s influential footprint in hip-hop culture. From the glorifying ode to modernised society in Dis Generation to the insight into veteran mistreatment and black injustice themes inside The Killing Season – it’s a culmination of striking sovereignty. Kanye adds an emotional hook line as long-time tribe collaborator Consequence spits into a hard verse citing racial injustice and privileged white society – “Now they wanna condemn me for my freedom of speech/’Cause I see things in black and white like Lisa and Screech” he resolutely asserts. New kid on the block Kendrick Lamar blesses the vibe inside Conrad Tokyo, spitting flame over the top of an emotional jazz sampled instrumental. Deep bass drum kicks propagate under a careful Rhodes piano feature as K-dot rhymes about wealth, summoning biblical references and the pain of the current society. Then Jack White rounds out the track with a hearty guitar solo attribute with a delicate stir.
Much of the album’s touching moments come in the wake of Phife’s untimely death in early 2016. Hearing his skilful rapping enunciation posthumously is met with a bittersweet gratefulness. He succeeds, however, in exhibiting an unbridled enthusiasm for his chosen craft. It is this, that one extracts from the album’s closer; The Donald. It’s a heartwarming tribute to the fallen brother, moving and beautiful. Jack White lends a hand with a guitar rawness both prolific and strong as Busta Rhymes praises the lyrical legend that is Phife (Don Juice). Phife shimmies into the second verse – “Off top on the spot, no reading from your Whackberry/Leave the iPhones home, skill sets must be shown/I’mma show you the real meaning of the danger zone, huh” he rhymes with a reinforced confidence; firing at fake rappers of today. Then the loving tribute finalises as a musical eulogy is delivered by Q-Tip and Katia Cadet – tugging at the heart strings and saluting the five-foot assassin.
Not much else can be stressed in justifying the general brilliance of this record. The scrupulous songwriting, the effortless rapping style, to the reconciled attitudes heard in Tip and Phife’s rapping chemistry. A sense of balance has finally been restored with a masterful projection both intimate and genuine. It comes at a time where making sense of the world is met with complexity and darkness. For fans of ATCQ however, it’s the most efficacious offering achievable and a light at the end of a long tunnel. The record’s title thanks us for the 26-year ride our generation have had the chance to witness, though many of us feel that we are not worthy of. Rest in peace, Phife Dawg. Thank YOU Tribe.