It’s been nearly 18 years since the legendary hip-hop crew A Tribe Called Quest has made any sort of attempt to put out new music.
With a series of five records being released from 1990 to 1998, perhaps no other group radically changed the trajectory of hip-hop like the group did, and now, after the death of frontman Phife Dawg, the Tribe has re-formed for one final hoorah with “We got it from Here… Thank you 4 your Service.”
Any other group to make a comeback of this scale may be interpreted to have purely commercial interests, but given the timeliness of this release, both on a personal level for the group as well as current events unfolding around the nation, it is clear that Tribe just has a few more things they want to share with the world.
The opening track, “Space Program” does a fantastic job of really setting the tone for the rest of project. The simple chorus makes it very evident that this album will become somewhat of an exposition on race and politics.
Overdone? Possibly. But one can argue that no group is more fit to tackle these topics than this group that has elevated to such a legendary status in the black community while still earning respect from all races and all nations over the past decade and a half.
The following track, “We The People…,” continues to push this agenda even stronger. In a mere three minutes, Tribe presents their case in a highly poetic fashion and with overproduction that resonates with both the old and new school. The result is borderline breathtaking, and bound to give any hip-hop head chills.
The track also narrows down the focus of the project as a whole to clearly address Donald Trump. From this point forward in the project it is more than clear Trump’s candidacy and eventual election strongly inspired this project.
“Dis Generation” and “Kids…” both adopt a rather unique cypher-like style utilizing lyrics so deep that truly understanding them will take a myriad of listenings.
And perhaps that is what makes this project so exciting. In many ways, I see this being very similar to Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.” At some points it’s weird and very cryptic, but once you really sit and live with this album, it just becomes more and more beautiful.
Some other highlights of the project are tracks such as “Mobius” and “Movin Backwards” where lyrical content is matched by more than exceptional production. These tracks certainly stand out, but in a project like this, it’s hard to define the album by merely the highlights.
Over the span of 16 tracks Tribe sets out to accomplish something so much bigger than just making dope songs. It’s something that has to be experienced by a full listening session, and then many more after that.
The project ends on “The Donald” which ironically, may be the song that pertains to Trump the least, and instead serves as a tribute to the late Phife Dawg, wrapping up the wild ride on a heartfelt and sincere note.
“We got it from Here… Thank you 4 your Service” is definitely one of the greatest artistic success of our generation, and possibly the biggest problem with reviewing it is that words cannot do it justice.
Race, politics, addiction, death, love and greed are all explored in-depth in the most poetic of fashion, and the only thing that will be greater than listening to it for the first time will be living with it for years to come.