A day after the death of the musical visionary Leonard Cohen, another group of musical visionaries made a brief, bittersweet comeback.
Today (Nov. 11) the legendary hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest has released its sixth—and likely final—album: We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. The album, after an 18-year hiatus, a band-members’ falling-out, and the death of rapper Phife Dawg, came together after a reunion performance on the Tonight Show in November 2015.
After a week in which many struggled with the news of US president-elect Donald Trump’s win, some greeted the new album with joy.
The name of the final track on the album is strangely prescient: “The Donald.” “I’mma show you the real meaning of the danger zone,” says Phife. Its complex, almost angry, guitar riffs wrap up the 18-song collection with a strong punch. (Some commentators have said it’s in fact not a reference to the new US president-elect, but a tribute to Phife himself—or Don Juice, as he’s referred to in the track.)
Hailing from Queens, NY, the group formed in the late 1980s, and by the early 1990s had emerged as one of the most progressive acts in the field, fusing jazz and soul influences and adding seamless layers of samples into their creative and eclectic tracks.
“A Tribe Called Quest was like nothing I had ever heard. It was stylish, funny, jazzy, soulful, smart and everything else,” The Roots’ drummer Questlove told Billboard last year. “In 1990, I was a budding hip-hop artist, but hearing Tribe made everything bloom.”
Much of Tribe’s traditional musical characteristics are present in today’s offering, too. The bass, smooth jazz, and interplay between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg “will feel instantly familiar” to fans, writes Jamiles Lartey in the Guardian.
This album was recorded shortly before Phife Dawg’s death in March, following complications with diabetes. In a wide-ranging and emotional interview with the New York Times, fellow founding member Q-Tip spoke of how he “had no idea that his days were numbered” and that he just wanted to “celebrate” the late rapper who he reunited with after a public split.
“We gotta get it together forever, we gotta get it together for brothers. We gotta get it together for sisters,” chants Phife hauntingly and powerfully on the album’s opening track, The Space Program. “Let’s make something happen,” he repeats before the cackle from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Other tracks feature appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, Jack White, and others.