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September 18, 2017

A Tribe Called Quest bid its fans a thoughtful farewell

A Tribe Called Quest Official Facebook Page

(A Tribe Called Quest Official Facebook Page)

A Tribe Called Quest will never have the opportunity to tour behind its new album, “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service,” and that’s okay.

With only six studio albums under their belt, the Queens trio of rappers and producers have already long been established as one of the most influential groups in the history of hip-hop. Although fans around the world want nothing more than to hear the new record’s gorgeously fluid and thematic bars live, it is a given that after the untimely passing of Phife Dawg on March 22, A Tribe Called Quest can no longer be.

The group’s records will live on forever though, retaining Phife Dawg’s spirit and personality within their bumpy beats and unique rhymes. Each of A Tribe Called Quest’s past records have aged like a fine wine, only growing richer and more complex with time. The group therefore has nothing more to prove to the world. Its legendary, politically and culturally conscious rapping style can now been heard clearly through artists such as Chance the Rapper, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.

This final record, then, serves more as a thank you to the group’s many fans and devotees for the love and support they have shown over the group’s long career.

“We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service” is a record that pays homage to the rap group’s past while passing off the torch to younger artists influenced by the group’s prowess and style.

In 1990—when Queens was saturated with rappers talking about sadness, death and the rawness of living among drug dealers and crime—A Tribe Called Quest instead chose to capture a brighter side of being young, black and intellectual in a gritty environment.

Songs like “Can I Kick It?,” off of the group’s first record, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” captured the youthful exuberance emitting from talented MCs Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, as well as the groovy creativity of producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

Twenty-six years later, A Tribe Called Quest retain the same free spirit and lust for life with “Dis Generation,” a standout track that features Busta Rhymes. On this track, Phife Dawg, Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes shout out upcoming hip-hop artists Joey Bada$$, Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole for being “gatekeepers of flow” and “extensions of instinctual soul” over catchy guitar riffs and drum samples. With this, A Tribe Called Quest says goodbye to the past in the greatest way: by eagerly welcoming the bright future.

Although the group may be optimistic about hip-hop’s future in America, they feel less sure about our country’s political future, a feeling of uneasiness that the trio captures on the album’s second track, “We The People….” As the political climate of an area changes, often its music follows suit. Therefore, “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service” contains a darker, more remonstrative tone than any other album from the group’s past.

“We The People…” begins with sirens that appear to blast in order to rally for the unification of forces against the challenges of inequality, discrimination and police brutality. Q-Tip mocks the political agenda of Donald Trump, stating, “All you Black folks, you must go/All you Mexicans, you must go/And all you poor folks, you must go/Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways/So all you bad folks, you must go.”

Both Q-Tip and Phife Dawg are disgusted with the many problems that America is facing as they end their musical careers together. Phife Dawg, provides his two cents as well, stating “Dreaming of a world that’s equal for women with no division/Boy, I tell you that’s a vision.”

While “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service,” released Nov. 11, contains many of the nuances and personality of a great A Tribe Called Quest album, it is obvious that lead rappers Q-Tip and Phife Dawg are ready to begin moving on after this LP.

Past fans of the group should be delighted that these final bars from Phife Dawg exist, and satisfied with the consistency Q-Tip exhibits throughout the album. New fans should use this record as a springboard to get into the group’s older music, as it is those early records that made A Tribe Called Quest great in the first place.

Now it’s our turn to thank A Tribe Called Quest for its service to our ears. You can do so by checking out this final album.

William Plotnick can be reached at wplotnick@umass.edu.

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