Hip-hop greats A Tribe Called Quest back after gap and loss
Pioneering hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest is back with its first album in nearly 20 years - full of star contributions and final words from late member Phife Dawg. “We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service,” released on Friday, is billed as the last album by the band credited with bringing a new artistic sense to the genre born on the streets of New York. In a sign of the group’s enduring influence, some of the top names in music contributed to the album including Elton John, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Jack White.
The album revisits the classic style of A Tribe Called Quest, with smooth but sparse beats and dueling verses of its key members - Q-Tip, expressive and upfront, with the snide asides of Phife Dawg. A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) has not released an album since 1998 amid friction between the two rappers, who had met as schoolmates in the New York borough of Queens in the 1980s. The pair reconciled and returned to the studio in 2015 but Phife Dawg died in March afer a lifelong struggle with diabetes.
Q-Tip, who early on became the face of the group and went on to a successful solo career, completed the production after Phife Dawg’s death, eerily mixing the vocals posthumously. The album marks some of the first political music since the shock election victory of Donald Trump, although A Tribe Called Quest wrote the songs while the campaign was still underway. On “Conrad Tokyo,” Phife Dawg - who would not live to see Trump’s win - raps of watching the election campaign on television and his surprise at the lack of outrage over the tone.
“Troublesome times, kid / No times for comedy,” he raps in the collaboration with Lamar, one of hip-hop’s most critically acclaimed voices. “The Killing Season” - which features rappers West, Talib Kweli and Consequence - takes up the Black Lives Matter movement, with vows never to forget the rights of African Americans. Questlove, the producer and percussionist of The Roots who credits his discovery of A Tribe Called Quest with transforming his early musical sense, heaped praise on the album in his initial thoughts.
“This is an excellent high note to end on but this is only telling me that the gas in ATCQ’s tank is nowhere near empty,” he wrote on Instagram. A Tribe Called Quest is best known for “Can I Kick It?”, a mellow track set to a sampled bass line from Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” — AFP