To call A Tribe Called Quest’s 18 years away from the spotlight a hiatus would be a disservice. After the release of their fifth album in 1998, it was assumed that the American alternative hip-hop group, consisting of four members and hailing from Queen’s New York, would never return after their subsequent and abrupt split. The tragic death of one of its frontmen Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor in March of this year due to finally losing an ongoing battle with diabetes meant that even the most optimistic person knew a Tribe reunion seemed hopeless. Yet remarkably on November 11, one last album was released; and it’s one that succeeds in avoiding the usual lacklustre content of comeback albums, instead harking back to Tribe’s heyday as the pioneers of inventive and soulful hip-hop, equalling the quality of their previous classics.
Soaked in old-school hip-hop and sprinkled with samples from the jazz and funk eras, We got it from here…Thank you 4 your service is an album that pushes the boundaries of rap in the same manner that Tribe did in the early 90s. Sonically, they don’t miss a beat. The production is raw and innovative throughout, infusing influences from a range of genres not usually associated with rap, whilst still retaining the hard-hitting essence of hip-hop. The album succeeds in balancing the introduction of progression and modernity in their work with remaining loyal to a sound that Tribe themselves championed at the end of the last century.
“Q-Tip, the group’s architect, returns to the mic as strong as ever”
Q-Tip, the group’s architect, returns to the mic as strong as ever and handles the body of production, whilst the late Phife Dawg provides the playful rhymes that became a staple of why he was considered so relatable and likeable by fans “No doubt I’mma set it, dudes best be ready, Off top on the spot, no reading from your Whackberry”. Jarobi White, one of Tribe’s original members before leaving to become a full-time chef, is also prominent on the album, providing a particularly moving verse on ‘Lose Somebody’ in tribute to the group’s fallen friend. The album is littered with standout tracks, with ‘Space Program’ acting as a rousing, politically driven opener, providing a message of unity that sets the tone for an album so necessary and suitable for the current tumultuous period we’re living in. Newcomers Anderson Paak and Kendrick Lamar each make fantastic appearances, symbolising a passing of the torch from seasoned veterans to new pioneers, with the latter featuring on ‘Conrad Tokyo’, a song that is arguably the purest old-school Tribe song on the album, with Phife and Lamar floating over a gorgeous nostalgic beat that will transport you to another world. ‘Dis Generation’ serves as the invigorating magnum opus of the project, featuring a star turn from Busta Rhymes who, along with the three other MCs, engages in light-hearted lyrical interplay that proves how timeless Tribe’s unique sound is. This is an album that will brighten up those cold and dark winter walks back from university.
We got it from here…Thank you 4 your service serves as a beautiful tribute to the fallen Phife, a fitting farewell to one of hip-hop’s greatest groups, and a body of music that deserves to resonate in the ears of listeners for years to come. Thank you for your service Tribe.