Few rap groups are able to masterfully blend politics and music like A Tribe Called Quest. Coming off a near 18-year hiatus, the group released their final album, “We Got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service.” Surviving members Q-Tip, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammed return to the music scene with their first album in 18 years and its message is all too relevant.
Possessing an eyebrow-raising level of foresight, the tracks confront the political insecurity and violence that is plaguing the nation with words that cut like razors. Hip-hop, as an art form, has always cunningly infused politics in order to bring awareness to societal problems. From N.W.A. setting the world on fire with the drop of a beat to Kendrick Lamar assuaging the growing pains of a racially divided America, A Tribe Called Quest now finds their spot on the pantheon. The album also acts as a tragic memorial for member Phife Dawg, who died at the age of 45 back in March during its final recording stages.
When it comes to A Tribe Called Quest, it is not all heavy thematic listening and education. Several songs on the album do an excellent job doubling as dance tracks with production that is reminiscent of their earlier party albums. Q-Tip acts as the main producer and songwriter for the latest album and he gives a meticulous amount of attention to the samples and beats on each track.
“We Got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” puts the past year on trial with different tracks being dedicated to controversial topics that have resulted in the tumultuous past several months. The opener, “The Space Program,” tackles the racial tension that has divided people across the country with biting lyrics and self-aware humor. Interestingly enough, references to several different elements in pop culture are spliced throughout the track, from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to Neil Armstrong’s famous first words on the moon. The references help to subvert the overwhelming bleakness of the song’s message and it allows for brief moments of lighthearted awareness.
One of the many standouts comes in the form of “We the People,” where the group provides sharp insight into the craziness that pervaded the 2016 Election. Attacking the prejudiced language that saw a strong resurgence during President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign, the group prosecutes issues including police brutality, sexism and the threat of deportation against minorities on the heavy track. The group actually attempts to take sides on the track with each verse dedicated to a different perspective on these issues. The decision effectively outlines and decries the chaotic partisan politics that became commonplace during the election.
There are also a multitude of high-profile guest appearances on the album as well, with the likes of Jack White, Andre 3000 and Busta Rhymes contributing their talents to several tracks. Their contributions add even more polish and expertise to the overall sound of the record, which makes for a fantastic listening experience.
A Tribe Called Quest’s final effort has resulted in the group creating one of the best albums of the year. Simultaneously, they cement their legacy as a vital hip-hop group dedicated to creating awareness and change through music. “We Got it from here…Thank You 4 Your Service” is a fantastic sendoff to the politically charged group and it provides sharp insight into the societal issues that are currently gripping the country. Fans will be more than satisfied after their long hiatus, while newcomers to the group will find plenty to analyze and enjoy.