Written by Angelo Gingerelli
A Tribe Called Quest has been in the national consciousness more in 2016 than any year since they dropped their last album (1998’s “The Love Movement”) due to the 20th anniversary of “Beats, Rhymes & Life,” the 25th anniversary of “The Low End Theory,” Jarobi’s transition from musician to chef chronicled in Dan Charnas’ best seller “Work Clean” and the untimely passing of Phife Dawg. While not all of these factors were positive, they did create the perfect set of circumstances to release ATCQ’s final project We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service.
The project gets off to a strong start with “Space Program” and doesn’t really let up for the next sixteen tracks. The production is the classic ATCQ sound updated for 2016. The beats are as multi-layered and jazzy as they were on their 90’s classics, but now include futuristic syncopations and sound effects on tracks like “Kids” and “Mobius” that make it the rare album that sounds modern and timeless at the same time.
Lyrically, the core Tribe members all bring their A-Game to the table with Q-Tip displaying his unmistakable flow and wordplay, Jairobi popping in for unexpected words of wisdom and the recently deceased Phife being the same brash, metaphor-obsessed MC you remember from older albums. As usual Phife contributes some of the most quotable rhymes on the project by referencing pop-culture and sports in unique ways and reminds listeners why Hip-Hop lost one of the most slept-on lyricists of all time when he passed away earlier this year.
The guest appearances on the album are similarly impressive and include some of the biggest names in the game, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak and a rejuvenated sounding Busta Rhymes all check in with guest appearances that will be on many best-of-the-year lists. Even former collaborator turned VH1 reality star Consequence checks in with a few quality guest verses. These collaborations all fit into the bigger picture to build the album as a complete body of work and even when collaborators as diverse as Elton John and Jack White are involved the album never feels like a compilation or mixtape because everyone is playing their part to create a cohesive project. Also, these collaborations sound like they were recorded at the same time in the same place as the artists are interacting with each other and referencing each other’s lines. This has become somewhat of a lost art in the era of file sharing emailing verses, but the old-school approach absolutely works here.
While the album addresses various subjects including Phife Dawg’s death (“Lost Somebody”), the current generation of MC’s (“Kids and Dis Generation”), relationships (“Enough”) and the nature of celebrity (“Ego”), the album becomes incredibly timely on tracks like “We The People” and “The Donald” that address the current political climate. While the results of the presidential election may be hard for some to swallow, it’s hard to argue that this is not the first great album of the Trump-Era.
We Got It From Here… is ultimately both triumphant and sad. The album is a great celebration of one of the greatest groups of all-time proving they can still make music as good or better than MC’s half their age and that there is still an audience for the kind of artistry ATCQ pioneered close to three decades ago. As a music fan, it’s depressing that these are Phife’s final verses and Quest’s last group project, because for as great as the album is, it still leaves fans wanting more. As a human being it’s sad that this album is still necessary in 2016 and that songs about racism, homophobia, equal rights and gentrification are as timely now as they were when these guys lost their wallets in El Segundo.
Best Songs: They’re all great.
Perfect For: Almost Anything
Score: 9.5 out of 10