By: Joseph Kathmann
This is what your first (and only) album after an 18 year hiatus should sound like. A Tribe Called Quest, one of hip hop's legendary groups, returns for one final album that can simply be described as extraordinary. ATCQ manages to find a balancing act between looking behind and ahead, crafting an album that is both honoring their glorious past while blazing new roads-which is customary for the group. The band's daring experimentation is obvious from the onset, as the group brings elements of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka of all things in the opening track "The Space Program" which of course works beautifully because it's ATCQ.
More importantly than that, though, is the band's poignant message prevalent throughout the album. It is especially obvious on a track like "We the People...." which features the lyrics "The fog and smog of news media the logs / false narratives of Gods that came up against the odds." Clearly nobody knows who's the target of those lyrics. That said, there are a few missteps. A track like "Dis Generation" features fairly ordinary lyrics that are meant to rile up Millennials, but it comes out as a song that sounds just like every other song meant to rile up Millennials...... Of which, there are many.
The real calling card of We Got It from Here though, is undoubtedly its experimentation. ATCQ pioneered some of the crazy experimentation we've heard in the hip hop genre over the years, and that did not go away in their latest installment. Honestly this experimentation is hard to describe, but it amplifies the experience that is listening to this long LP. Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Q-Tip, Jarobi White, and the late Phife Dawg all play off each others vocals and create tracks that are so....different, that they just have to be heard to be believed. I mean, there is total silence for nearly 10 seconds in the track "Lost Somebody" that leads into a guitar riff that sounds like something from Gary Clark Jr. It shouldn't work, but it does! I first listened to this album a few weeks ago and have been contemplating how to write this review ever since. Clearly I still haven't quite figured out how to do it, but, between a poignant message, great contrasts in rapping styles, and unique experimentation, ATCQ successfully reminds us why they were considered one of the best rap groups of 1990's while also dropping a powerful album by today's standards. Take a listen.
Also, RIP Phife Dawg. The band was hit hard by his sudden death, and have definitely dedicated this final album to him. Check out their touching SNL tribute while performing "We the People...." to him below.
My Number: 8/10
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.