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We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
A Tribe Called Quest We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
Released 11 November 2016

Q-Tip, Blair Wells, A Tribe Called Quest
Label Epic/SME
Length 60:19
Genre Alt hip hop, jazz rap
Website atribecalledquest.com

It’s bittersweet that A Tribe Called Quest’s first album in nearly twenty years is also going to be their last, following the death of Phife Dawg earlier this year. Being honest, it seemed unlikely that we’d even get this album; Q-Tip was the clear breakout star from the group and had achieved so much more on the solo stage than the rest of his band mates. Alongside his own major hits like 'Breathe and Stop' and 'Vivrant Thing' he crossed over into dance music featuring on hits like Dee-Lite’s 'Groove is in the Heart', The Chemical Brothers’ 'Galvanize' and Mark Ronson’s 'Bang, Bang, Bang'. When things are so lucrative and successful on your own it’s hard to then go back into a group element, giving up full creative control and a cut of the profits. However following a segment on Jimmy Fallon’s show, the same night as the Bataclan attack, they decided to mend fences and go back into the studio to record We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.

It’s immediately identifiable as a Tribe album; a mix of drum beats, samples, record scratching and live instruments. There’s no cheap beats or attempt at making it sound like a 2016 album. The list of featured artists is impressive, a nice mix of frequent collaborators from the early days (Busta Rhymes and Consequence), the cream of modern rappers (Andre 3000, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamaar, Anderson Paak,  Talib Kweli) and some unexpected appearances (Jack White, Elton John). It speaks of the esteem ATCQ are held in across multiple genres that so many big names want to come on board. The verses delivered by the guests are rarely dialled in either, rather than giving a straight 16 bars that could be pasted over any loop or theme the rappers exchange lines with ATCQ passing lyrics back and forth, especially impressively for Andre 3000’s turn on 'Kids' and Busta Rhyme’s segment on 'Dis Generation'.

Obviously they fare just fine on their own without the guest stars too, delivering impressive back-and-forth rhymes on opening trio 'The Space Program', 'We The People' and 'Whateva Will Be'. Each song delivers a message of what it’s like for black people in modern America. In a time where police brutality regularly makes the headlines, where Black Lives Matter is an ongoing cause and where a Republican party with a racist undercurrent are leading the country, Tribe’s socially aware verses are a nice counterpoint to the gangster lifestyle glorified by other rappers. Away from the social commentary Enough!!' is a much more mellow number focusing on love and lust set over a smooth bass line and, in a nice call-back, the twangy guitar sample from 'Bonita Applebum'.

As for Phife Dawg, they don’t over-do the sentimentality. The album was created as a Tribe record where Phife appears on most tracks, it makes sense that the tributes don’t overshadow the music that he helped create for We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service as it would deviate from Phife’s own vision of what the album should be. They find space to remember him appropriately; 'Lost Somebody' is the main dedication to him with Q-Tip and Jarobi each delivering an emotional verse on Phife’s early years growing up. Q-Tip acknowledges that their spats over the years were business as usual for friends who were practically brothers. In a fitting move they also reserve the last song, on the last Tribe album, for a track about him and his calibre as a rapper. 'The Donald' may not be the strongest track on the album but it’s appropriate that they sign off singing Phife’s praises.

We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service manages to mix sentimentality with powerful messages and still remain an uplifting album. The highpoints ('The Space Program', 'Enough!!', ‘Kids’, ‘Dis Generation’ and ‘Lost Somebody’ in particular) are impressive and even the lesser tracks are way above average. It’s the perfect way for Tribe to bring down the curtain on an amazing career.

- Brian Kinsella