A Tribe Called Quest is a name that should be familiar to anyone who calls themselves a hip-hop fan, and despite the recent tragedy in the loss of Phife Dawg, we have been blessed with an album so appropriately named, “We Got It From Here…Thanks 4 The Service”.
Pioneers in alternative hip-hop this New York crew laid the blueprint for many left-field hip-hop artists in the future such as Gym Class heroes, mainstream hitmakers like Pharrell and more. Members of the Native Tongues Posse ATCQ are true legends in the game, and despite not having dropped an album since ’98 their relevance has never been in question.
I have to get this out the way first though; don’t come here expecting a rehash of “Midnight Marauders” or any of the previous albums. Logic would tell you not to expect that considering the time-span since their last release but just in case any of you are that naive or caught up in nostalgia I feel that is a necessary point to bring up.
That being said though it wears a pretty typical and obvious ATCQ on its sleeve. A perfect display of this is the breadth of collaborations assembled on this wonderous project including Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Anderson Paak, Jack White and Andre 3000. This is a perfect blend of unorthodox and like vibed contemporaries, exactly what you’d expect from Tribe. Impressively as well they manage to have most of these contributions appear incredibly subtly in spite of what seems like a very long list of features.
I shouldn’t have to speak on ATCQ lyrically. They are one of the greatest groups to ever do it, arguably the best, they came up in an era of high calibre spitters and distinguished themselves coming from the city that birthed the entire culture. That should be enough but in case you’re sleeping on them still I’ll give u a little something.
With all the dry wit of Malcolm X, just as much revolution and the blunt passion of Gil Scott Heron this is a perfect example of never being able to have too much of a good thing. They tend to eschew the typical rawness may associate with New York rhymers but it’s not needed with them for the most part, they display more than enough eloquence and levels regardless.
Beats-wise it’s a pretty nice project, it maintains a nice head-nod pace the whole way through and Q-Tip revels in his multi-instrumentalist status contributing keys, bass and drums to the project all pretty consistently. It’s not my favourite project of ATCQ’s for instrumentals but it’s not bad at all, I really do enjoy this kind of refreshing update to their style. All this is coupled with a great ability to grant space to some of the features to really strut their stuff.
Two great examples of this are “Moving Backwards” and “Conrad Tokyo”. Anderson and Kendrick both sound completely at home on both these songs, complete with groove room for Paak and a perfect driving beat to serve as a good tide to Kendrick’s tsunami-ass flow. Oh and I have to address the audio ambush that is “Ego”…just listen, you’ll see what I mean.
Overall this is a great project, personally I’d have loved to see some contributions from Robert Glasper, Common, Terrace Martin you know those kind of guys; I feel like they would have tied together a kind of unity amongst these artists not unlike the Soulquarians or Native Tongues.
That doesn’t mean the project feels empty or anything, that’s just simply idealistic fan musings. This is a welcome return for one of my favourite groups and it serves as a great final farewell to the legend that is Phife Dawg (R.I.P) but most importantly it yet again cements ATCQ’s timeless quality of music, the fact they haven’t strayed from their usual M.O and still produced something that sounds ahead of the curve even with today’s modern artists.
They’ve proved that hip-hop doesn’t need eras to be revived by newer generation mc’s, the originals can come back and still sound fly as f*ck without any attempts to conform or appeal to newer audiences. Whether this is an album that rings true across generations is still to be seen but I see no reason why it shouldn’t be, but regardless of whether that’s the case this album is a gem to add to the crown of great hip-hop releases this year.
Until next time homies…