NYC rap pioneers A Tribe Called Quest step up after an 18-year layoff for a final comeback that’s timely and relevant.
We Got it From Here….Thank You 4 Your Service is an album simmering with dark grooves and the band’s mix of rap/loop collage and clear bottom end.
Producer J Dilla acts as an auxiliary member and the combined ideas present a hip hop update from early masters.
Sadly the album is a final statement from founding member, Phife Dawg who died near the end of the recording. It’s a perfect swan song for the rapper on tracks like We The People.
The group’s progressive hip hop stance is given on their earth-meets-space sound collage The Space Program, an upfront opening statement. The voices, slogans and smoky sounds are an uptake on urban soul. Dis Generation brings on jazz inflected loops of the kind that differentiated the Tribe from commonplace early funk sample sounds.
The recording simmers with unrest and hypnotic riffs and beats (Melatonin, Enough) and the trademark low end that the group built their sound on is all here. Fans familiar with that sonic pulse will identify Whateva Will Be and Solid Wall of Sound. Elton John is quoted on the latter track before he actually steps in to finish the song. The group’s use of illusion here is impressive and subtle and moments like these are all over the album.
Their early hip hop pioneering and urban soul roots are detectable on We Got it From Here… Dis Generation and Kids are easy playing tracks under the wordwork and verbal onslaught of Q Tip and Jarobi White. The voice interplay gets stretched to other heights on Mobius and Lost Somebody and these highlight how the production wizardry is tamed in service of the song and done in the moment.
We Got it From Here…. Thank You 4 Your Service is a bookend to A Tribe Called Quest’s career and a proud tribute to a lost comrade. It also connects their stature and legacy as commentators to proto rap group The Last Poets whose inner city explorations held a kindred spark. This recording will surely find appreciation with a new audience with reflective tracks such as The Killing Season and The Donald.
– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest releases in his column, Street Sounds, every Friday.