By Josh Weavers and Jack Holmes
With the release of We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) face a trend which plagues veteran artists when they release new music after a long spell away from recording: how do you create music which is simultaneously new and familiar? It seems like an impossible task to produce something which will please the older fans by retaining a signature sound, while also avoiding alienating first-time listeners by sounding too dated. Arguably the challenge for ATCQ is even greater given the high regard with which their body of work is held, as well as the scope of the influence which they have had across the entire hip hop genre. Their influence can be heard in the work of artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, who both deliver a deep and socially conscious sound which can trace its roots back to groups like ATCQ. It would have been easy for ATCQ to cash in on their legacy by bringing in a few big names and copying the sound they cultivated on their previous works.
Instead, ATCQ have produced another masterpiece that pulls out all the stops to earn itself a place in both the band’s history, and in hip hop history itself. When they first arrived on the scene back in 1985, they were amongst artists that had already begun pushing a movement, and relished the chance to lend their voice to the social commentary that American hip hop was reveling in. Their last album The Love Movement, seemed to be Tribes big finale in 1998, with the group splitting that year, and being nominated for a Grammy in ‘99. One last album from the group has been rumored for the 18 years since, although it always felt like wishful thinking, and the death of member Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor earlier this year seemed to put a stop to what little hope remained.
It turns out however, that the group had begun working on recordings after their appearance on ‘The Tonight Show’ back on November 13th, the same night as the Paris attacks. Feeling “charged” at the news, they put aside their differences to work on one final album, and although Phife’s death occurred before the album was completed, the other members rallied to finish the record even after his death.
Guest spots throughout the album are perfectly pitched; including an Andre 3000 appearance on ‘Kids’, and the iconic Kendrick Lamar on Conrad Tokyo. Mobius is another highlight, and yet another example of Busta Rhymes stealing any show he makes an appearance in. Enough!! Feels very much like classic tribe for when you’re planning on bumping uglies and features a sitar sample from Bonita Applebum, from their 1990 album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.
This isn’t the typical band swan song, where an artist attempts to release their safest, most crowd pleasing material. This is Tribe, dragged into the present day while sounding fresher than ever. With We Got it From Here… ATCQ reminds us how they earned their title as a key voice of the genre in the first place.