A Tribe Called Quest has been in the hip-hop scene since the mid-’80s and this past week they released a two-disc album titled We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jarobi White, Phife Dawg and Q-Tip are the original members, and although Phife Dawg passed away in March of this year, he still appears on this, their sixth studio album. This album features many well-known artists, including Busta Rhymes, Andre 3000, Jack White, Elton John, Talib Kweli, Anderson .Paak, Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West.
There isn’t a better song to start the album with than “The Space Program.” Right off the bat, Q-Tip and Phife lay down a heart-pounding verse with a tight flow. Tribe fills their verses with musical elements and deep lyrics. Even though they speak their lines quickly, they all manage to enunciate every word perfectly. They even do this when they speed through lines which are phonetically similar. Something really striking is that they rap over each other and weave their voices in and out in single verses. This creates a powerful and interesting sound. Each song is crafted, not just performed.
Lyrically, Tribe tackles some big social issues such as xenophobia, racism and gang violence. But they go a step further to include themes of politics and military service. Being able to rap well is one thing, but being able to rap well about a variety of real problems is on a whole other level. Tribe definitely achieves this level.
Apart from Busta Rhymes, the featured artists usually have a small part. Busta, however, appears on multiple tracks and his voice adds variation to the group. All of the features contribute to this, and they all do a wonderful job rapping or singing. Considering Busta’s history with Tribe, it is fitting for him to play a significant role, especially after Phife’s death. Another unique feature is White’s guitar solo, which is an emotionally screechy tribute to Phife.
Muhammad knows how to lay down beats that utilize the drums and bass heavily, but also use guitar, piano, strings and electronic music. Throughout the album, the drums are used extensively as they are a staple of the hip-hop genre. The rhythms differ from track to track and have almost a jazz or funk quality. But when looking at individual songs, the drums are kept constant which gets a little boring. Then again, the group’s lyrics and flow made up for this. Electric sound is used to great effect; there are pulses and pauses in the beat to accompany the rapper.
In general, the raps and the structure of the songs differ from much of the mainstream rap of today. This is more hip-hop and is produced for listeners, not clubs. The beats are, at times, drab, but are remedied by the skills of all the artists. Each feature adds their own personal touch, which creates a strong piece of work. We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service scores an eight-and-a-half out of 10. I strongly recommend this to any fan of hip-hop. Even if you are dabbling in the genre, it is a treat.
Contact CU Independent Arts Staff Writer Benjamin Vernon at firstname.lastname@example.org.