We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, A Tribe Called Quest. *****
The new Tribe record’s opening sample cries “we’ve got to get our shit together”, and within seconds the dynamic duo re-appear: “let’s get it together/come on let’s make it/let’s make something happen“. The greatest rap group of all time are back, off an 18-year hiatus.
Six months after the untimely death of Phife, there is a brand new Tribe record.
When Q-Tip tweeted the news I was absolutely gobsmacked, and my jaws not nearly recovered after hitting play on We Got It From Here. Tribe aren’t merely back, this is possibly their best record, ever.
Phife and Tip rhyme in machine-gun tandem on the opening bars of Space Programme, making a nonsense of the past decade of sometimes bitter inactivity. Jarobi appears out of nowhere to spit fire:
Molotov the spaceship doors before that bitch is taking off/It always seems the poorest persons/Are people forsaken dawg
The message has changed subtly. Throughout the record, Tribe no longer rap solely about the trials and tribulations of young, black males: the lyrical content is a litany for the oppressed everywhere:
All you Black folks, you must go/All you Mexicans, you must go/And all you poor folks, you must go/Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways/So all you bad folk, you must go
No one can accuse Tribe of cashing in on the nostalgia of a first album in nearly two decades. The beats are absolutely impeccable; the production flawless. It’s fresh and yet indefatigably Tribe. Tip is in his element; samples aren’t shoved down your throat, but infiltrate your ears. Track after track shows why he is still one of the most innovative producers in the game.
Likewise, the guest appearances aren’t bolted on to entice the new generation of hip-hop fans: Consequence and Busta need no introduction, and Tribe have always bought out the best in both rappers in any case. Socially conscious spots from Kendrick Lamar and Talib Kweli, and a shout out to “Joey, Earl, Kendrick and Cole” sees Tip pass the torch on Dis Generation.
And finally, Phife Dawg. The 5ft assassin first burst through my speakers on Buggin’ Out, and his infectious, hyperactive, always very funny rhymes are going to be sorely missed. Who can say what would have come after We Got It From Here, had Phife not passed. As far as legacies go, Tribe’s last album re-establishes their status as the best rap group of all time.