Last Friday, as smoke was still wafting around our heads thanks in large part to Tuesday’s Presidential election, A Tribe Called Quest dropped their first album in 18 years. News of the album being released was still fresh, having been announced about a week earlier by Q-Tip, who told the story of the initial sessions being prompted by the group’s performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Yet in the wake of Donald Trump being elected President, a new Tribe album was wonderfully-timed good news. Count me in as one of the many anxious to check out We got it from Here…Thank you 4 Your service. The group’s performance on Saturday Night Live only heightened the anticipation as Q-Tip, along with Jarobi White, who left the group in 1991, performed two songs from the new album, including the lead banger “We the People.”
“We the People” was the first track off of the album I heard thanks to Funkmaster Flex bumping it on a loop Thursday night. Flex was pumped. Flex bombs were coming in fast and loose and as fun as it is to here a song for the first time in such a setting, you can’t help but wonder where the hell it begins and ends. Ha, white people problems, huh?
Overall takeaway: it’s a fun album, comforting in uncomforting times. I think a handful of songs off of it will outlast the legacy of the album, but it’s not as if that’s a rarity these days.
Now, five takeaways:
“We The People…” Will Join the Ranks of Classic Tribe Songs
“We don’t believe you, ’cause we the people” Q-Tip says at the jump, a few bars after the song comes marching in courtesy of a driving, grimy and dirty back beat. Bringing a fuzzed up bass line, keyboards and occasional sirens with it, the beat continues to drive along throughout the song, dropping out from time to time. It feels like vintage protest rap, hip hop with a message. And hey, bonus points for a catchy af hook; a hook with a sadly poignant refrain.
“All you black folks, you must go / All you Mexicans, you must go / All you poor folks, you must go / Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways / ‘Cause all you bad folk, you must go”
It’s Nice to Have Buster Rhymes Back
It is. Dude has a flow like no other and it’s especially great because realistically, his flow works best in small doses. The longtime ATCQ road dog pops up on a handful of tunes and made a cameo during the group’s second song on Saturday Night Live. He’s either be working out or eating a lot. One of those deals where it’s kind of hard to tell. But hey, love ya Busta.
ATCQ’s Discography Is Still Led By Two Albums
The group’s last album, 1998’s The Love Movement, never made that much of an impression on me. I don’t think I’m alone saying that. Their second album, The Low End Theory, released in 1991, is the band’s high water mark and I feel like that’s an irrefutable statement. It’s my favorite Tribe album, one of my top 10 albums ever and one of the album’s I listen to the most. Whereas with a lot of bands or groups that I’ve liked for as long I’ve liked Tribe, when the mood strikes to listen to them, I usually revert to playlists. Not so with Tribe. The Low End Theory is my fall back, default choice when I feel like busting out some Tribe. When it comes the second best Tribe album, I imagine most people are split between the first and third album. Count me as team first as I love People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. The novelty of this new album will increase it’s stature in the band’s history, but ultimately the album will settle into the lower tiers of their discography.
Guest Spots on the Album Ranked
We got it from HERE…features an impressive roster of guest stars, which really isn’t that surprising given the influence and popularity of the group. Here are the five best guest spots, ranked entirely subjectively.
5. Kanye West “The Killing Season”
4. Talib Kweli “The Killing Season”
3. Kendrick Lamar “Conrad Tokyo”
2. Anderson .Paak “Movin’ Backwards”
1. Andre 3000 “Kids”
Honorable Mention: Jack White, Elton John, Busta Rhymes, Consequence
Unpopular Quasi-Opinion About This Album
Uh, is this really A Tribe Called Quest album? Yes. Yes, of course it is. They say it is, so it is. The “they” in question are the surviving members of A Tribe Called Quest. So there – case closed. However, if you were to take a run through the album credits, one name in particular sticks out more than any other. Q-Tip. Now, Tip is a founding member of the group so again, case closed. But Tip also has had a mildly successful solo career outside and after ATCQ, so it’s not as if a Q-Tip solo album is some wild idea. Granted Phife’s involvement was limited because of his death but, and again, this is mainly for the sake of argument, if one were to just make a guess on whose album this was based on the credits, you might be inclined to think this was a Q-Tip joint and not a A Tribe Called Quest joint. Why? Well for starters, ATCQ is listed as the executive producer, but Q-Tip is listed as producer. But hey, job titles are weird. Q-Tip appears on nearly every song, with the exception being the Phife/Kendrick jawn “Conrad Tokyo.” Q-Tip appears by his lonesome on a handful of tracks and plays keyboards and drums on practically every song. Again, Phife was limited, but all I’m saying is that an argument could be made that this album is as much of A Tribe Called Quest album as Chinese Democracy is a Guns n’ Roses album.
I’ll shut up now.
The album is dope.