• Review

Review: A Tribe Called Quest

It’s been eighteen years since we last heard a Tribe album. It’s been eighteen years of quiet, and since 1998 a lot has changed within the rap/ hip-hop game. It has undergone its changes much in the same way of a lot of mainstream music, but for fans like myself hearing the new record was like a breath of fresh air. It was the lyrical gymnastics divvied up with their dose of positivity and smeared with the boom bap that they made famous. 

A Tribe Called Quest is comprised of MC Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor, MC and producer Q-Tip, and their DJ and producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and MC Jarobi White. They formed in 1985 in what has been dubbed, “The Boogie Down Bronx,” in New York City during the time when hip-hop was coming up and building to a crescendo, and eventually reaching where it is today. Tribe was and is part of that foundation that built hip-hop, along with so many others. They created beats that were funky, and beats for their time, and now that were ingenious. They were sampling from everywhere, and using their own knowledge of music that could make your head spin.

The latest record is a testament to this. You have Q-tip playing bass and drums on a few tracks and keyboards, not to mention the all-star cast of characters that contributed to the album such as: from Leaders of the New School Busta Rhymes, Andre 300 (from Outkast), Jack White, and Elton John, and more. With all of this talent, the album remains true to Tribe, funky beats, and lyrical majestry that can only be worthy of Tribe. With the unfortunate passing of Malik “Phife Dawg” earlier this year this album is all the more poignant. Q-Tip and Phife bounce lyrics off each other like it was still 1990. A few more years older, and all the more wiser and yet still staying topical with their rhymes. They had something to say with this album, and I won’t pretend to know what they wanted to say, all I do know is they didn’t seem to just do this for money, nah, they went about this the Tribe way. Each song you could say has some sort of socially conscious undertone. Especially now with the state of our politics, and I will withhold revealing any songs because you should take the time to listen to this record however it is you listen to records, and let Tribe take you to their space.

It’s been eighteen years since they have given us an album. There’s a lot to say and get across in those eighteen years. In 2006 they reunited, but they didn’t release an album. We can try and decipher the meaning of the title of the album, and whatever we would all come up with could be true. I ultimately feel it is a call to action for all the MC’s out there to keep in mind your history. To stay true to yourself, that there will always be a place for boom bap beats, and lyrics that make you hit the rewind so you can make sure you heard what you just heard, or to hear it again because - damn, the hairs on your neck and arms stood up. That warm chill embraced you like a blanket, yeah that feeling, there will always be a place. That place is embedded in Tribe, it is who they are. I hear this album as a challenge to all the DJ’s and MC’s to step out of their boxes. Tribe never says anything like this specifically, in fact, if you just take the title of the album for face value they are essentially saying “Yo, don’t worry y’all, we got this. Y’all can just take a step back now. We are back.” Again, I have no idea. I did not get a chance to ask Q-Tip or anyone involved with Tribe to do this review of their album. All of this is just my opinion of an album that I have been waiting for since 1998, eighteen years of waiting on a hip-hop album that was true, and while there have been a few this one just made me say, “Aww, man this just ain’t fair.”

If you appreciate the lyricism that Tribe has brought, the creativeness with their beats, and just the overall sound that they have brought to every record than you should pick this album up. Even if you don’t, this is an album that I would put in my top ten, and number one for me, just because of the eighteen-year hiatus, from a record, and the unfortunate passing of Phife. Even if Phife were alive, it wouldn’t matter this record is that good. It’s soulful, it’s bluesy, it’s jazz, it’s the south, the north, the east, and west it encapsulates all of us. We Got it From Here has been a joy to listen to as I have dealt with my own things this year. The album dropped a few months ago, and to essentially finish off my trying year with this was a sheer joy. It might not be for everyone, but it is so unique and is quite simply and honestly HIP-HOP. Rest in peace Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor, and all the other great people we have lost this year.