Hip-hop legends will forever live on as major influences in the genre. Some aren't ready to say goodbye yet, though. Despite the passing of one of its core members, A Tribe Called Quest is here in 2016 with their sixth and final We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service.
During the recording of the album, founding member Phife Dawg unfortunately passed away. That didn't stop the group from finishing the record, though. Q-Tip shared the following, handwritten message upon the announcement of the record: "It was coming together nicely and as you may know we lost our BROTHER may GOD REST HIS SOUL on March 22nd. But he left us with the Blue Print of what we had to do." We Got It From Here features new verses Phife recorded for this record, not old ones that never say the light of day. It's brand new material, and it's some powerful stuff.
It's a slamming account of what's going on in the world right now. Even though it's been eighteen years since they released their last record, A Tribe Called Quest is not afraid to make a statement. Right off the bat, they make some profound statements: 'The Space Program' is all about the struggles the African American community still faces and just how bad it is despite it not being apparent to the outside world. The song moves groovily among punchy keyboards, the flow of each member showing that the years haven't gotten the best of them. Jarobi's verse flows straight into Q-Tip's in a seamless trade-off before the hook kicks in with light guitar and some lo-fi group vocal samples.
They tackle some more personal issues, as well, such as that of being an adult. The song 'Kids...' is all about how all of their lives, children wait to become adults so that they are then free. As André 3000 explains, though, "Kids, don't you know how all this shit is fantasy?" The synthy instrumental bounces almost in a reprimanding manner, as if to scare the kids that act in such a way.
The most profound statements are, of course, the political ones. That's really what the last three tracks on the record are. The first is 'Conrad Tokyo' - it features Kendrick Lamar, so you know something slamming is about to come. The track is the economic and political situations of America in the 2010s, commenting on certain political figures including Donald Trump. Phife's verse ponders the hostility towards his timbre of rap, ending it off with "Online they debate us, if we different, then we're haters / We ended our hiatus as dogs looking for food," as Lamar picks it up where he left off from a political standpoint: "Toleration for devastation, got a hunger for sin / Every nation, Obama nation, let the coroner in / Crooked faces, red and blue laces for the color of men / Just embrace it and die alone, song, a revelation." The instrumental's spidery nature is typical of Lamar, and it helps the idea of corruption the song treads on.
The song is then followed by 'Ego,' a slam on big ego figures that are the stars of pop culture. The rocking guitars that were teased throughout the last few songs finally develop as Jack White delivers some groovy and rocking solos. The final track on the record (and, incidentally, of A Tribe Called Quests' discography) is 'The Donald,' a direct slam on Trump with Busta Rhymes providing some respect to the late Phife as if he was the real leader.
The album overall has a refreshing sound. There's some more confident tracks like 'We The People...' with the thick beat and synths powerfully driving the song as it comments on bigotry and gentrification. Some songs slow it down, like 'Solid Wall Of Sound,' a dreamier instrumental encompassing the track to make it captivating, the pianos presumably supplied by Elton John. The chorus spirals and grows, while Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes play with an accent that Busta pulls of pretty well (though Consequence carries him in 'Mobius'). 'Melatonin' at the end of the first disk also has a similar spiraling vibe, guitar groovily supporting it. There's an almost childish vibe in 'Movin Backwards' thanks to Anderson.Paak's delivery. The instrumental is the key in 'The Killing Season,' featuring a hook from Kanye West (which has an unintentional pun with "sold ya" and "soldier") and a very gangster verse from Talib Kweli.
A Tribe Called Quest has been a big part of the history of hip-hop, and that will never change. Their final sentiments are put into We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, and it's definitely the final record the group deserved. It's not perfect and likely won't stand up there as a big competitor with their influential classic records, but it brings their influence into the modern age, bringing both their original sound to the plate and some unfamiliar sounds paired with today's artists to show they haven't died out just yet. A Tribe Called Quest may be over after this, but their influence will never die.
Favorite Tracks: We The People..., Conrad Tokyo, Solid Wall Of Sound
Least Favorite Track: Mobius
Rating: 80 / 100