A Tribe Called Quest, one of hip-hop’s most revered and celebrated groups, released its sixth and final album last week- We got it from here…Thank you 4 your service. The foundations of this creation continue to be supplied by Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Al Shaheed and Jarobi. Yet, as if to certify themselves in music history, a number of the industry’s finest have joined them for their final bow out. In addition to Busta Rhymes, Andre 3000, Elton John, Kendrick Lamar, Talib Kweli and Kanye himself all feature to end this journey.
The vocals of the late Phife and Q-Tip have always been exchanged back and forth to convey digestible political messages, cooked in wit, anger and unapologetic intelligence. Their social commentary is another narrative to contend with the likes of CNN and Fox News, yet somehow their street level dissertations seem to resonate at the top. Their messages are loud and clear, inflicting political messages in today’s socially explosive climate, yet with the usual gentle tone that diffuses positivity and hope. The group, symbolic of a wise counter-culture that originated in a time of black oppression, were either fortunate or borderline prophetic with their timings. The album could not have been released with more poignancy as America elected business tycoon, come reality TV star, Donald Trump, to be the forty-fifth President of the U.S. ATCQ’s response: make an appearance on Saturday Night Live, imploring the crowd to raise their fists to the air, and urging them to unify under the slogan “We The People.”
The album could not have been released with more poignancy
“We The People” is standout. Whilst neatly sampling Black Sabbaths ‘Behind the Wall of Sleep,’ the live-sounding drum kit compliments the stop-start vocals, generating a mean, aggressive tone that wryly pokes fun at Donald Trump’s inexcusable attitudes towards muslims, homo-sexuals and the black population of America. The transition to the next track “Whateva Will Be” is smooth, but the sounds are different. A funky, soft bass, with a dubby inclusion of Nairobi Sister’s ‘Promised Land’ is a hark back to the halcyon days of Native Tongues– a collection of groups, including that of De La Soul, focused on positivity and Afrocentric lyrics. “The Killing Season” is a headline show in itself, featuring Kanye West, Consequence and Talib Kweli, pillars of their genres. And yet, there is space for Elton John’s piano and Jack White’s guitar later on too.
The grouping of such talent sees ATCQ update their catalogue of sounds and subjects, whilst remaining true to the music that defined them through the Golden Age of hip-hop. Those jazz-inspired grooves that made for easy listening are now supported by the contemporaries of Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak. The vibrancy and the youth remains nonetheless,”We embraced the spirit of one-upping each other,” Group leader Q-Tip said. “All of the sudden the drapings of ageism and questions of ‘where we’re at’, that shit flew out the fucking window and we fell into science mode. We just locked in and we became fucking kids again.” And although the final scratches on ‘The Donald’ might be twenty years older, they are still of equal prestige, still reminiscent of the smoggy rooms in the Bronx and Queens.