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A Tribe Called Quest Returns with a New Album

The famous rap group's new album speaks volumes, touching upon the many social injustices that are occurring today. PHOTO/ HipHopDx
The famous rap group’s new album speaks volumes, touching upon the many social injustices that are occurring today. PHOTO/ HipHopDx

By Antonio Da Cruz

Published: November 30th, 2016

After nearly a 20-year break, A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ), the native New York rap group, came together again to release what looks like its final album. However, does ATCQ deliver in “We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service”? I believe they do.

This album comes to us just after the mournful death of rapper Malik Izzak Taylor, also known as Phife Dawg of ATCQ. Though his death still leaves tears and pain in the hearts of many, his cool, charismatic, and funny characteristics as well as his intelligence and lyricism are present throughout the album.

Normally, comeback albums aren’t always the greatest projects. Artists or groups tend to try to conform to the styles of this new generation of music to appease the masses and become popular again. Though rap and hip-hop has changed drastically over the years since ATCQ’s inception, they haven’t lost their touch on the mic. The album doesn’t feel like they were trying to do too much; it doesn’t fit the mold of most modern rap, yet it doesn’t sound like an album from the ’90s either. The album audibly sounds like what would happen if ATCQ had continued to make albums.

It has always been inspired by jazz, which can be heard significantly on this 16-track double-sided LP. ATCQ has influenced many groups and artists over the years because they incorporated jazz into their music. Artists like Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar, who are the most recognized for incorporating jazz into their latest projects, make jazz relevant, and ATCQ uses that to its advantage.

The album is charged with lyrics about social issues, and since their first album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” they’ve been very forward-thinking. It was always about what was going on in the world, and that’s what makes this album all the more great. With all the issues that have been going on, such as police brutality, and even Donald Trump being elected president, these concerns and worries can be heard on this album and it makes the listener feel better.

Lyrics like “The IRS piranha see a n*gga getting’ commas/ N*ggas in the hood living in a fishbowl/ Gentrify here, now it’s not a shit hole,” from the second track “We The People,” speak about the IRS. Hip-hop artists have been known to deal with tax troubles and have suffered greatly. The fishbowl reference is about the many who live in the ‘hood,’ and will always be stuck in the ‘hood,’ and those who live outside of the ‘fishbowl’ see it as a form of entertainment. The album is a conscious hip-hop album, like a classic Tribe album. There are many other examples of great lyrics that resonate with those who listen. As a young black male, I get it.

With a first-class feature list, this album really stands out among many albums that were released this year—from the likes of Busta Rhymes, an OG to ATCQ albums, as well as Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Talib Kweli, Andre 3000, and Elton John, just to name a few. The thing about the album that caught my attention the most, though, was the title. Phife Dawg named the album just before his death. However, it remained recorded but unfinished. The rest of the group left the title of the album as it was, as if it was a message to Phife saying ‘thank you for all he’s done,’ as well as Phife’s last message to us. Maybe he knew what was about to happen.

Who knows, though? ATCQ delivered a great album. I can honestly say, let Phife Dawg rest in peace.

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