A Tribe Called Quest recorded their last album, “We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service”, in November 2016. Now that the record has passed the five-year mark, let’s take a look back at a record you might have forget it.
This series aims to take a look back at three records from 2016: one that was popular but you may have forgotten, one you may have missed, and one that it’s time to stop pretending. not to love.
“We Got it From Here” is the sixth entry on A Tribe Called Quest. The pioneering rap quartet had not released a record since 1998. With Phife Dawg dying of complications from diabetes between recording and release, this is the band’s last record.
The disc is a critical success. It received a 91 out of 100 on Metacritic, Rolling Stone gave it four out of five stars and called it the fifth best rap album of the year, and Pitchfork gave it a 9 out of 10. It reached number one of the Billboard Top-200, ended the year at No. 94 and was certified gold by the RIAA.
It doesn’t seem to have the staying power of contemporaries like Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo” or Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book.” It’s a shame because it’s a record that goes far beyond the two singles – a record full of star power and messages that remain salient more than five years later.
The record features contributions from rock legends Elton John and Jack White and hip hop stars Kanye West, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes and Anderson .Paak, among others.
The two singles “We the People…” and “Dis Generation” hold the first side, while “Black Spasmodique” and “Conrad Tokyo” force you to flip the record and keep the festival skipping.
The verses focus on issues of gentrification, xenophobia, global warming and police brutality experienced through the eyes of aging stars. The album also contains songs that metaphorically pass the torch to this generation of musical innovators and songs that seem to bid farewell to the band.
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Although much of the record is heavy and political, the artists also find themselves dropping lighter verses, joking about their place in the rap hierarchy and how well they would fare in rap battles.
Musically, the disc is varied and interesting. The instrumentation varies through the album and includes all types of rhythms. It’s also packed with samples of movies, music, and TV shows.
For example, “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John provides the musical and lyrical basis for the song “Solid Wall of Sound”. With Busta Rhymes, Phife Dawg and Q-Tip rapping over samples, Elton John finally comes to an end with an original recording for the song.
Other samples include various blaxploitation movies, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and even Black Sabbath. Blaxploitation films emerged in the 1970s – made mostly by black crews for black audiences – and got their name as a combination of “black” and “exploitation”. Films of the genre often focused on topics like crime, sex, drugs, and racial tensions.
The last song on the record, “The Donald”, is a tribute to Phife – who sometimes went by “Don Juice” – and died during production. Phife’s final verse on the album ends with “Put down the microphone”, and the record’s final verse repeats Phife’s name over and over before ending abruptly with “Phife Dawg” and then silence.
“We Got it From Here” is available on multiple streaming platforms. Check back next week for more on a record you may have completely missed.