Anderson .Paak paints a picture of our wild society in his new album Oxnard.Read More
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
2016 is off to an extremely strong start. Here’s just a list of all of the new albums I’ve listened to from January to March and links to reviews, if applicable.
Doing it a bit different this time, doing it by rating, from greatest to worst. Alphabetical just seemed trivial.
5-Star Albums (8.5 - 10)
- AURORA - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend: 10
- Panic! At The Disco - Death Of A Bachelor: 9.5
- Deftones - Gore: 9.5
- Dream Theater - The Astonishing: 9
- Foxes - All I Need: 9
- Daughter - Not To Disappear: 9
- Lacey Sturm - Life Screams: 8.5
- HÆLOS - Full Circle: 8.5
- Weezer - Weezer (White Album): 8.5
- LIGHTS - Midnight Machines: 8.5
- The Last Shadow Puppets - Everything You've Come To Expect: 8.5
4-Star Albums (6.5 - 8)
- David Bowie - ★: 8
- BANNERS - BANNERS: 8
- Savages - Adore Life: 8
- Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo: 8
- Jack Garratt - Phase: 8
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - This Unruly Mess I've Made: 8
- Sia - This Is Acting: 7.5
- Grizfolk - Waking Up The Giants: 7.5
- The Drones - Feelin Kinda Free: 7.5
- Yeasayer - Amen & Goodbye: 7.5
- Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered.: 7.5
- Textures - Phenotype: 7.5
- Rihanna - ANTI: 7
- Megadeth - Dystopia: 7
- Hands Like Houses - Dissonants: 7
- Miike Snow - iii: 7
- BABYMETAL - Metal Resistance: 7
- The Jezabels - Synthia: 7
- Amy Lee - Recover, Vol. 1: 7
- Steven Wilson - 4 ½: 6.5
- Chairlift - Moth: 6.5
- Porches - Pool: 6.5
- Polyphia - Renaissance: 6.5
3-Star Albums (4.5 - 6)
- ZAYN - Mind Of Mine: 6
- Mogwai - Atomic: 6
- Låpsley - Long Way Home: 6
- Baauer - Aa: 5.5
- Asking Alexandria - The Black: 5.5
- The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It: 5
- Explosions In The Sky - The Wilderness: 5
- School Of Seven Bells - SVIIB: 5
- Krallice - Hyperion: 4.5
- Future - EVOL: 4.5
- Anderson .Paak - Malibu: 4.5
- Wiz Khalifa - Khalifa: 4.5
2-Star Albums (2.5 - 4)
- Killswitch Engage - Incarnate: 4
- Cozz - Nothin Personal: 3.5
1-Star Albums (0 - 2)
- None! :D
Top Albums Of 2016 (so far)
- AURORA - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
- Panic! At The Disco - Death Of A Bachelor
- Deftones - Gore
- Dream Theater - The Astonishing
- Foxes - All I Need
- Daughter - Not To Disappear
- Lacey Sturm - Life Screams
- HÆLOS - Full Circle
- Weezer - Weezer (White Album)
- LIGHTS - Midnight Machines
Top Songs Of 2016 (so far)
- AURORA - 'Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) (Acoustic)'
- Panic! At The Disco - 'Emperor's New Clothes'
- Deftones - 'Hearts/Wires'
- Foxes - 'Better Love'
- Lacey Sturm - 'Rot'
- AURORA - 'Through The Eyes Of A Child'
- Deftones - 'Phantom Bride'
- Dream Theater - 'Moment Of Betrayal'
- Daughter - 'New Ways'
- Jack Garratt - 'My House Is Your Home'
California R&B artist Anderson .Paak is back with his second full studio effort, Malibu, the album meant to serve as his breakthrough commercial success, and while it does achieve that feat, it still falls a bit short musically. Chocked full of hip-hop vibes and soul twangs, Malibu gives you a Californian feel but over saturates it by including a bit too much.
This album does have its ups. Opener track ‘The Bird’ is a chill track featuring clean guitar chords, jazz backgrounds, a laidback hip-hop beat, and a gospel backing it. The song is pretty minimalistic, never becoming too layered at any point. But, it does make use of many elements that make it a very diverse track. It’s a great song to walk through the streets with on a rainy day, with it’s piano licks and trumpet punches. ‘Put Me Thru’ is another standout on the album, a bigger track than ‘The Bird’, inspiring a scene of riding through Los Angeles. Backed again by a gospel, it has a punchier vibe with pianos and grander guitar licks. The album’s basslines throughout are all very funky, and a highlight of every song.
Unfortunately for .Paak, the praise has to end there. Throughout a good majority of the album, most songs sound like carbon copies of songs from other artists. ‘The Waters’ featuring BJ The Chicago Kid sounds straight off a Kendrick Lamar album. The album also has issues using certain elements effectively - the random background noise in ‘Heart Don’t Stand A Chance’ make it no more than annoying to listen to, which is a shame, since the song is fairly solid without the added noise. By the end of the album, everything begins to sound repetitive, too. The songs have good messages, though unlike ‘Your Prime’ which covers the story of a woman who gets around and can’t stay loyal, the real meanings get lost. The album becomes boring and uninteresting by the end, and with an album that contains sixteen tracks that clocks in over an hour, that can’t be something that happens.
.Paak’s commercial success is good from a spectator’s point of view. If it’s not your thing, it’s a pretty big flop. The album does, in fairness, have some catchy licks and melodies, but isn’t able to keep these good moments consistently rolling, causing the album to fall short of what it could be. At least it has the basslines. Hopefully .Paak doesn’t lose those on his next effort.
Favorite Tracks: The Bird, Put Me Thru
Least Favorite Tracks: Heart Don’t Stand A Chance, Silicon Valley