Let’s not focus on what might be wrong with hip hop today. Instead let’s talk about what’s right with it; and how A Tribe Called Quest and their newest (and final 🙁 ) album We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service exemplifies those things.
First and foremost there’s the fact that this album saw A Tribe Called Quest’s four original members, each of whom spent the most part of hip hop’s history truly pioneering and mastering its fine art, reunited and creating magic in the studio again. Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White: a long-time brotherhood, a family, with their individual talents and combined strengths effortlessly spitting out stunning beats and rhymes with a rare and sublime chemistry that’s simply undeniable.
Then there’s that cast of musical contributors and guest MCs, all of whom along with A Tribe Called Quest’s core members, are themselves masters of hip hop and further exemplify what’s right with it today. They include Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Anderson .Paak, Talib Kweli and Kanye West as well as hip hop veterans and long-time Tribe collaborators Busta Rhymes and Consequence. On We Got It From Here… those featured artists contribute to the tracks in a humble way, their parts subtly integrated into the collective whole without unnecessarily becoming the main focus.
Those MCs spit intelligent, clever lyrical rhymes of substance – speaking out about the things that need to be talked about, and heard by the masses. You know, all those seemingly persistent, cyclical wrongs of this world of prejudice and discrimination in which we still, unfortunately live; and fundamentally, the importance of critical thinking, unity and action in the face of those wrongs. Throughout the album due homage is also paid to the life, artistry, friendship and ultimate death of Phife Dawg (during the album’s making). And despite the heavy weight of its lyrical subject matter, in true and beloved Tribe-Style, the messages are delivered with plenty of humour and fun in the mix.
We Got It From Here… also had a recording process not seen often these days whereby all but two of its contributors (Elton John and Kanye West) recorded their parts in Q-Tip’s home studio- bouncing creative energies and ideas off each other, inspiring one another, to create all the many parts that eventually made up the final intricate whole after Q-Tip and Blair Wells had meticulously slaved over its production for months after recording finished.
This hip hop album feels and sounds alive – largely because of its perfect blend of live instrumentation with programmed beats. Amongst the contributing musicians adding their creative touches are Jack White on guitar, Elton John and Chris Bower on piano, Q-Tip on drums, bass and keys, Masayuki “BIGYUKI” Hirano on piano, keys and synth, Chris Sholar, Chris Parks and Blair Wells on guitar, Louis Cato on bass and guitar, Casey Benjamin on keys, organ, fender rhodes and piano, Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass, Mark Colenburg on drums, with scratches by George “DJ Scratch” Spivey.
And not surprisingly the group stayed away from the more obvious and most heavily-sampled songs – instead choosing lefter-field tracks from a diverse range of artists including Black Sabbath, Elton John, Can, Nairobi Sisters and Musical Youth.
Finally, We Got It From Here… exemplifies what’s right about hip hop music today because it undoubtedly moves the bodies of us folk in this world who love to dance.
Since the release of their 1990 debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, A Tribe Called Quest have made our lives much much richer with their music. We Got It From Here… is yet another blessed musical gift from these proven masters of hip hop today and for all eternity. We can and should be thankful to the Tribe family for all of those musical gifts.
Check out 2 of the albums 16 tracks here, remembering these versions are inferior, compressed mp3s. Of course Tribe released We Got It From Here… on cd and in its most superior format, sweet vinyl. Get the hard copy from your local independent record store and add it to your Beloved-Forever-After Music Collection.
“Solid Wall of Sound” – A Tribe Called Quest
“Ego” – A Tribe Called Quest
Despite Phife Dawg’s tragic passing during the making of We Got It From Here… there’s been talk of a world tour of the album. Here’s hoping that’s true and we get the blessed opportunity for the ultimate of A Tribe Called Quest experiences: to hear and see the remaining members spitting beats and rhymes live on stage.