A Tribe Called Quest delivers on promises with final album

Chris Duncan

After the death of Phife Dawg earlier this year, fans of A Tribe Called Quest feared the worst — that they would never hear new material from the group again. Little did they know Tribe’s final album was right around the corner.

Known as one of the most successful rap collectives of all time, A Tribe Called Quest was born from Phife Dawg and Q-Tip’s childhood friendship. During their heyday, Tribe released some of the most highly acclaimed albums in history, including The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders. After 18 years of silence, A Tribe Called Quest released a new and final studio album, titled We got it from Here… Thank you 4 Your Service.

As led by Phife’s instructions, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Jarobi White pieced together We got it from Here… using a group of recordings from 2015. Although it may have been assembled after his death, Phife Dawg’s mark is found in his abundant verses and politically charged messages.

We Got it from Here… features even contributions from all four Tribe members — some expected and unexpected guests make surprise, uncredited appearances on several songs. Consequence and Busta Rhymes leave the strongest mark, providing their vocals on six of the leading seven songs on the two-disc LP. Some more shocking guests earn credits on select songs, including Elton John on “Solid Wall of Sound” and Jack White for his joint composition of “Lost Somebody.”

Although at times they might clash with Tribe’s typically jazzy production, individual contributions play a major role in diversifying this project’s track list. The clash of White’s heavy fuzz guitars over the uppity and playful beats from Tribe might sound like an unpalatable combination, but their experiments pay off as the riffs build energy and draw in focus on several songs. Andre 3000’s guest verse on “Kids…” brings a mixup in flow and approach, pivoting well to the drug warning that is “Melatonin.”

A Tribe album wouldn’t be complete without heavy political influence, and We Got it from Here… more than follows through with some of this year’s best conscious rap. Right off the bat, “The Space Program” challenges the black community to unite and make best of the current situation, while “The Killing Season” questions recent acts of war and how pointless armed conflict can be.

Whether it was accident or intentional, We Got it from Here… is the first major hip-hop album released after Donald Trump’s election, and even though Tribe couldn’t have known Trump would become the president-elect, it’s obvious they feared the possibility. Instead of directly referencing Trump, the group challenges right-wing politics on grounds many find contentious, especially on “We The People…” when Q-Tip takes on racism, classism and xenophobia in an attempt to warn those who might be affected.

Sonically, the Tribe had their work cut out for them — their boom bap style shouldn’t fit in a modern context. Rather than trying to bring new elements into their production and mixing things up, the group stuck to their guns. The result is a nostalgic feel, perfect for already established fans of the group, but unwavering for modern hip-hop heads.

As an LP, We Got it from Here… answers more questions than it leaves. A Tribe Called Quest was never a group to bend to changes in their genre. This record more than proves that, standing boldly as an assertion of their influence on hip-hop and their confidence in what makes music powerful. Although it’s sad to listen to this project knowing it will be their last, it’s a more than worthy conclusion to their legacy.

We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
A Tribe Called Quest
Rating: 8/10