By Alexandre Darche
2016 has been plagued by the deaths of many of our favorite celebrities. This past March, the hip-hop community lost one of its pioneers, Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest. When I was in high school, their music sparked my curiosity to find music which was not just what was on the radio. Their lighthearted rhymes were so infectious that I still remember, verbatim, every lyric to the song Scenario. We would put on their album “The Low End Theory” in my friend’s basement and we’d all sit and listen quietly, bopping our head to the beat. Phife’s death had me thinking a lot about those times and made me revisit their discography a few months ago.
Amidst all the garbage coming from the American election, the group announced they would be releasing their final studio album; their first in 18 years. I was excited but worried that it would be a quick cash grab to milk Phife’s death. Thankfully, I was wrong.
Let me get this out of the way: this album bangs. After my first listen through “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service,” I was sure I had whiplash from bopping my head through the entire 16 track playlist. The album was a perfect throwback to their old sound, aged to artistic maturity. The beats are layered and evolve throughout the songs, creating a rich rollercoaster of imagery. The lyrical content was split between traditional Tribe lighthearted material with a bit more political and social commentary. It’s as if A Tribe Called Quest went into the studio with the intent of making a rap-tastic opera of the likes of Kendrick’s “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
Speaking of Kendrick, they picked up an impressive list of features all contributing seamlessly to the sound of the album. Unorthodox contributors like Elton John and Jack White blend nicely with the old school hip-hop style. Rap legends Busta Rhymes and Kendrick Lamar also give intense vocal performances. The most surprising, however, is the inclusion of a jaw dropping verse from Andre 3000, who’s been doing a lot more features as of late (please bless us with a new album).
Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but this might be one of my favorite projects this year, and we’ve heard many excellent albums. Please do yourselves a favor and take a listen to this if you enjoy any kind of rap. It’s an outstanding swan song to end off their career. Phife would be proud.