On November 11, 2016, the world was blessed with something it desperately needed: catharsis and healing, packaged in the form of a 16 track album from A Tribe Called Quest titled “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service.” This title is a clear dedication to the recent fallen member of this group, Malik Izaak Taylor AKA Phife Dawg, who passed in March of this year. Themes of tribute and remembrance were prevalent throughout the album, but it would be a true disservice to Phife’s legacy and the impact ATCQ has had on hip-hop, to undersell how historic this album is from purely a content standpoint.
The features include the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes, Consequence, Anderson Paak, Andre 3000 and other especially eclectic souls. I would encourage anyone to go read the full album credits in order to understand the full scope of Q-Tip’s involvement in production, (specifically for those who aren’t very well versed in his history). Each track sounds like a focused journey around topics of social justice, expression, and community, while maintaining its jazzlike qualities and truly phenomenal drum work (from the fore mentioned legend Q-Tip, for the most part). The album definitely maintains the qualities that drew fans toward the group in the 90s, but it does not feel the least bit antiquated or lyrically past its prime. The assumption, in many consumers’ eyes, is that when old-head creators drop a project in todays climate, it will receive respect for time put in but not necessarily acclaim, which causes these creators to try to do what the kids are doing, grasping for their last bit of relevance or revenue, creating a cycle of sub par art being produced by people we’ve considered our heroes. A Tribe Called Quest was not plagued by this affliction, likely due to the fact that there was a greater purpose behind each turn of phrase.
Previously I mentioned that the world needed this album, and at least for concerned black and brown youth, I truly believe that. A few days prior to the release of this album, the American electorate gave rise to leader who is shrouded in controversy and has disrespected many American’s who make this country the best it can be. Regardless of your political alignments, it was apparent on Wednesday, November 9th, that some real healing needed to be done. People of different faiths, ethnicities, and orientations had to face the reality that some of their neighbors might not have their best interests at heart. ATCQ’s timing, I believe, was not an accident when releasing this masterpiece. It truly feels like they reached out to people like us and said “we feel the tension in the air too, but we have to stay focused and aware,” without bringing that stereotypical, corporate, primary school kumbaya message. They were real and blunt, and they brought something that America really needs which is honest conversation about what has been happening to those who are systematically disadvantaged. Very few artists have been able to capture the type of dialog needed with such timing and relevance, while also bringing an especially smooth, timeless delivery.
Lyrically, “We got it from Here…” meets the standards we would expect from ATCQ, coupled with some of the most impressive sampling ever heard. The features were appropriate and purposeful, and, as is tradition for popular hip-hop in the last few years, the Kendrick verse was fire. Torches were passed, tribute was paid, and history was made.