The Hip-Hop Gods have quite literally blessed us with a gift to soften the blow as the legacy of a particularly long and testing year finally comes to a close. Nearly 18 years after the release of their last album The Love Movement in 1998 and a mere 8 months after the abrupt passing of group member Phife Dawg due to the complications from diabetes at the age of 45, A Tribe Called Quest has released what will be their very last group album We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.
Clocking in at just over an hour, for their last album all four original group members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad have all returned to deliver the group’s final send-off. The group also enlists a plethora of guest performers to lace the album, including the likes of Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Anderson Paak as well as long-time group collaborators Consequence and Busta Rhymes for a 16 track musical adventure straddling the line between the past, present and future of Hip-Hop music. Group front runners Q-Tip and Phife Dawg trade bars between one another as if no more than a day has passed, while Muhammad and Jarobi join together in the group’s first full-fledged reunion since their debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm back in 1990.
Unlike many veteran Hip-Hop groups and artists that return to the music scene after long hiatuses, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service doesn’t sound dated like it’s been sitting somewhere in a vault since 98′ or like the group is trying to re-capture the sound of golden era New York. But conversely, the album isn’t just a compilation of 2016’s flavor of the month rappers and producers with A Tribe Called Quest sticker slapped on the cover either. Much like the group itself, We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is a unique project in its own right that continues to push the contemporary notions of the current music scene; neither being constrained by the conventions and attitudes of the group’s glory days or previous works nor being forced into the cliches and trappings of today’s modern contemporary Hip-Hop scene. In many ways, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service sounds exactly what one would expect A Tribe Called Quest album to sound like in 2016. Jazzy, soulful, uplifting, introspective, thought-provoking; all of these elements remind us exactly why we fell in love with A Tribe Called Quest and why the group’s catalog and legacy have stood the test time. A Tribe Called Quest has also returned at a time when the guidance and influence of Hip-Hop’s elder statesmen are most sorely needed, even if at this point a bit too late for long-time fans of the group. Tribe even specifically shouts out contemporary new-age emcees who are making high-quality music in the same vein as theirs. Artists Joey BadA$$, Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole are even specifically called out by name on ’Dis Generation’ with Tip rapping “Talk to Joey, Earl, Kendrick, and Cole, gatekeepers of flow. They are extensions of instinctual soul. It’s the highest in commodity grade. And you could get it today”. In many ways, We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service feels like the passing of the torch of as the older generation hands the reins to the next to continue and uphold the legacy.
We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service sounds about as good as A Tribe Called Quest album could in 2016, after nearly 18 years apart. Is it the group’s best album? No, but with that said it doesn’t have to be. In an era where the Hip-Hop Heroes of our youth are seemingly passing left and right, oftentimes very suddenly without warning, it’s a blessing and gift in the most literal sense that we as fans were able to get a proper send-off and conclusion to A Tribe Called Quest’s musical journey. From Run D.M.C. to Gang Starr, to D.I.T.C., to UGK and many others; Hip-Hop groups are all too often left in chaotic disarray following the sudden death of group members. Frequently after long, petty and egotistical personal feuds within groups among members. However, it is somewhat comforting to know that Tip and Phife were able to put their differences aside and put one last album together as a group for the fans.
We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is a perfect final curtain call for the group and a satisfying conclusion to a long tumulus musical journey. Over the past 26 years, A Tribe Called Quest has made their mark in Hip-Hop and cemented their status in the culture. They occupy a unique space that has yet to be duplicated and likely never will be ever again. Admittedly as a life long Tribe Called Quest fan, it is bittersweet listening to an album that almost every fan surely thought would never hear. For the past 18 years, Tribe fans have been subject to a variety of false rumors and stints of brief irregular re-unions only to be dashed by infighting within the group; so it is satisfying to know that after all these years Tip and Phife were able to put their differences aside, salvage their friendship and turn out just one last final album as a group for the fans. In a culture and industry where artists and groups rarely get to see careers come full circle, it is nice to see that one of Hip-Hop’s brightest and most positive shining stars were able to receive a proper send off to conclude their musical journey as a completely reunited group. For 26 years, A Tribe Called Quest has enchanted and wowed Hip-Hop heads and casual music listeners alike with their witty, clever rhyming, and jazzy vibrant production that has inspired a whole generation of emcees. We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is the final chapter and a fitting bookend to conclude a long and emotional story that will continue to influence and inspire artists for generations to come.
We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is available now in stores and to stream on Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music & iTunes.
Check them out tonight on Jimmy Kimmel!