Music Fans: A Tribe Called Quest is Back
When an album has the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Elton John, Anderson .Paak, Jack White, and major features from Busta Rhymes and Consequence, it’s pretty reasonable to conservatively assume that the music will be solid at the very least. The pedigree of these artists, dissimilar from a DJ Khaled album, mirrors the talent and creativity of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White. The best part? Each artist supplements the album with his individual grace, never overpowering, always paying homage, and always contributing positively to the otherworldly Tribe Called Quest sound. But, did we expect anything less?
Since their first album in 1990, the foursome has led the alternative-hip hop scene with their ahead-of-its-time sound. They hit the scene when gangsta rap’s popularity was at an all-time high. Hip-hop needed a balance from the NWA’s, Tupac’s, and Nas’s of the scene, and Tribe provided the people’s ease. They didn’t necessarily avoid important topics; In fact, they were quite conscious, but they approached different subjects like afrocentrism to date-rape to consumerism to being cool with an easy-to-the-ear, upbeat groove, worthy of windows-down, sunny day joy rides.
Their peak together really came about with their second album, ‘The Low End Theory’ in 1991 and their third album, ‘Midnight Marauders’ in 1993. After their first album, that mostly featured Q-Tip as the major MC, Phife gained a much larger role, and flexed his lyrical muscles with confidence. His macho voice and bravado contrasted Q-Tip’s sneaky Franky Valli of Hip-hop appeal, creating one of the most dynamic MC duos of all time. Tribe has released too many incredible songs to name-drop, so for starters, watch their entertaining music videos (maybe ‘Jazz (We’ve Got) Buggin’ Out,’ ‘Electric Relaxation,’ and ‘Scenario’?) to get a taste. When you’re hooked listen to literally all of their albums.
It’s been eighteen years since Tribe’s last studio album, and ‘We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service’s arrival was perfectly timed. 2016 has definitely taken years off our collective lives as a nation. Dave Chappelle, the most woke comedian of our time, re-surfacing has helped. Humor can be therapeutic during stressful times, but music hits a special chord. Thank God, or Buddha, or Allah, or whoever the hell you want to thank that Tribe banded back together for one final album. Eh, just thank Tribe.
And thank Q-Tip & Phife Dawg for mending their strained relationship. In November 2015, after performing as if they had never split up on the Jimmy Fallon Show in honor of the 25th anniversary of their first album, ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,’ the crew decided it was time to squash any lingering tensions and get back into the studio. A few weeks later, they found themselves in Q-Tip’s Englewood, NJ basement competitively bouncing line after line off of each other, bringing their featured artists physically to the studio so no chemistry was lost, and producing their famous bass heavy, funky sampled beats with a modern twist.
In March 2016, Phife at the age of 45 passed away from diabetes complications. This devastated the group, but with the support of family, friends, and millions of fans, they were able to finish the album with all of Phife’s hard hitting verses already recorded and the new motivation of closure. The album turned into as much of a dedication to Phife Dawg as it was a final hurrah.
This album brings back the imperfect, progressive funkiness that Tribe perfected in their early 20’s, and adds the experience and perspective gained from their different pathways through life over the years. They speak about police brutality, violence, the election, politics, the media, and more. You know, the fun stuff!
The results of the presidential election probably would not have surprised Phife Dawg. Here are some notable lyrics from their song ‘Conrad Tokyo,’ which is coincidentally followed by the songs ‘Ego’ and ‘The Donald.’:
CNN and all this sh*t, gwaan yo, move with the f*ckery
Trump and the SNL hilarity
Troublesome times kid, no times for comedy
Blood clot, you doing, bullsh*t you spewing
As if this country ain’t already ruined
Toleration for devastation, got a hunger for sin
Every nation Obama nation, let the coroner in
Crooked faces, red and blue laces for the color of men
Just embrace it and die alone, song of Revelation
Tribe also cover lighter topics, and they pass the torch off to some dudes that say words, phrases, clauses, and sentences in a rhythmic fashion over sounds that sound cool at a higher level of proficiency with deeper meaning than other dudes that try.
Talk to Joey, Earl, Kendrick, and Cole, gatekeepers of flow
They are extensions of instinctual soul
It’s the highest in commodity grade
And you could get it today
Tribe Called Quest is back with their final album and it deserves your active listening. RIP Phife Dawg.
Photo Credit: 360 Nobs