A Tribe Called Quest has finally done it! The esteemed American Hip Hop group’s new album has already earned critical acclaim. The album which dropped 18-years after their last release and break up has certainly matched fans expectations. The collective; Q-Tip, the late Phife Dawg, Jarobi White and DJ Ali Shaheed Mohammed managed to put out a rocking project with flair to respect and admire.
ATCQ have been around for a good number of years both in performances, studio albums and after their break up in our minds and hearts, in their successful career, the group has gone contrary to what would be the ‘in thing’ in Hip Hop and produced uniquely impressive classic records that have inspired many and influenced a number of modern artists, their impact in Hip Hop cannot be wished away. At the time when Gangsta Rap was most popular, ATCQ thrived with their alternative Hip Hop style; philosophical message oriented, the easy, jazz-rap tunes, unique sampling and diverse and fun street raps-read Phife Dawg- much to the appreciation of many Hip Hop fans.
The group’s return is more of reminiscence to the familiar ear, a re-union of some of the most appreciated individuals in the Hip Hop industry. The album comes a few months after the passing of Phife Dawg aka the Five Foot Assassin who succumbed to complications resulting from Diabetes at 45. The project is also a celebration of Phife Dawg born Malik Taylor and a founding member of ATCQ, a unit formed around 1985.
“We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service”, well, you can choose to interpret the title however you want. The album has 16-tracks featuring the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Anderson .Paak, Talib Kweli, Andre 3000, Jack White, Busta Rhymes, Consequence and Elton John among others including writings from Marsha Ambrosius and Kamaal Fareed.
The album has great material with the distinct signature and that A Tribe Called Quest vibe, the project also features new verses from Phife Dawg who died while the group was working on the album. ATCQ addresses various issues while painting pictures of struggles, personal issues, politics, race, hate, issues revolving around crime, black unity and such.
“Space Program” the first track off the project is an address to the American community especially the people of color and a call for unity ‘Gotta get it together for brothers/Gotta get it together for sisters…’ The track speaks to current happens in ‘the land of the free’. The vibrant head bopping beat embraces the second tune “We The People…” the theme is similar to the first tune, addressing the race issue and cultural stereotypes that have teared through the American fabric. Phife Dawg minces no words on this incredible tune tapping on his Trinidadian accent for that stellar effect. Then strolls into “Whateva Will Be” where Jarobi White exposes us to his killer lines ‘The media relates it what it thinks it sees/Judging steps in shoes of a path they never walked’; how issues are misinterpreted and misreported by the media.
Elton John graces the album on “Solid Wall of Sound” the piano effect blends with the echoic drift on the chorus. ATCQ long collaborator Busta Rhymes joins the back-and-forth rap style, signature to Phife and Q Tip and he actualizes his schemes in amazing style. The Caribbean accented flow between Busta and Phife crusts the whole tune. Busta also features on “Dis Generation”, “Kids…” on the other hand features yet another reputable figure in Hip Hop Andre 3000 a verse exchange on a sort of jingly yet bopping beat.
“The Killing Season” features, Jarobi, Talib Kweli, Consequence and Kanye West, the melodious instrumental stretches throughout the track as the MCs showcase their lyricism revolving around politics. How about a musical meeting between Phife Dawg and Kendrick Lamar rested on finicky keys and brittle synths, this tune bears two generations of Hip Hop, interpolations herein is details the political and economic situation in the United States. Anderson .Paak does impressively on “Moving Backwards” together with Jarobi and Q-Tip.
“Lost Somebody” is a sort of a sad reflective tune lifted by jack White casting solo riffs. The track is that point on the album when it hits you that Phife is actually gone, Jarobi and Q-Tip trade stories on their personal lives and interactions with Phife aka Malik since their childhood, how they met the neighborhood they grew up in, the late MC’s character and their brotherhood.
A Tribe Called Quest’s sixth and final album is a perfect party for Hip Hop, even as we celebrate Phife Dawg’s life. The album gives you the feeling of a roundel textured with a lasting memory of ATCQ from the past and right into the future. From one of the most influential music group, A Tribe Called Quest gave us the best of bittersweet, and we say… thank you!