Friday, November 11, 2016

For ATCQ, 'We Got It From Here' is a proper homecoming slash last-hurrah

We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest
After eighteen years of LP-drought, two reunions and award after award, the super legendary golden age pioneers of alternative hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest (Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White), have returned with their sixth studio album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, possible because of the renewed fan-excitement for the crew plus the group’s newfound cohesion and unified mission, which both found incredible steam one year ago. Sadly but not unexpectedly, the great MC Phife Dawg, who had been battling diabetes for many years, died in March in the thick of the recording process, but his contributions are still major in We Got It. Named after a testament that sounds like it could be either a stroke of braggadocio on the group’s part or something the new guard of rap would say to the guys of Tribe ironically, We Got It From Here is a kaleidoscopic melange of fine experimental production thrills from Q-Tip and Ali, some classic vocal interplay between Q-Tip and Phife, a variety of concepts and subjects and rock-solid yet emotionally powerful guest spots from Busta Rhymes, Elton John, AndrĂ© 3000, Consequence, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Jack White, Anderson .Paak and Kendrick Lamar.
The Tribe use their “Space Program” as a way to get above and ahead of those things that hold people back, and choose to rebel in quick fleeting bursts and also in some random effective ways, as they remark on bigotry, radio station PDs, elitists, kids these days, the experience of being dark skinned and fun love-making, all in the first half. Quite a few of these topics make their appearances short with one of the most extended examples being the “We The People”-line which states, “Vh1 has a show you can waste your time with.” If they had been any longer or testier, Epic Records might have had a conniption with the collective. Other spots are simply fine dynamics that showcase the great verbal exchange, smooth baton-passing and focal continuity across verses, most notably when Busta and Consequence pick up after Q or Phife for instance.
The second half continues in that same conscious manner. Current rappers are held to a higher standard in “Black Spasmodic,” the slaughter-obsessed culture of the law is grieved and calmly protested in “The Killing Season,” and lost loved ones are immortalized in “Lost Somebody.” The ender “The Donald” is a tricky one to make out. Although the title flashes the name of the new US commander in chief, it’s more a tribute to Phife, whose name is punched in repeatedly throughout the track. It leaves a little more to be desired of a finale-song from a group of such high status and caliber as these men have; however, looking back on the whole thing, though the newly artistic productions speak louder than the vocals in pockets, and although the album in general tends to give a bigger stage to the guests than the original members themselves, the memory-making parts are vast and undeniable and the spirit of the multitudes that went into crafting the album is powerful and tremendous. The group said this will be their last official album and in fact they said the same for The Love Movement back in 1998, but it’s easier to believe the statement now because of the big time gap between that and this, and most especially because We Got It From Here is a grander, more proper sendoff for the famous foursome.
4 out of 5 stars

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