Just when we needed it. Out of the darkness after 18 years. A Tribe Called Quest has finally blessed us with their latest work of art: We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. It features collaborations from artists like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, Andre 3000, Elton John and more. But best of all, it includes all four original members: Q-Tip, Jarobi White, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and contributions from the deceased Phife Dawg (some of the album was recorded before he had past in March 2016). Sadly, this is their last album together though.
We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is the sixth studio album from the group. A 16- track double album that speaks of a wide range of topics of today’s racism, disadvantages and struggles that one may have, and the changes of time.
The album starts with the track “The Space Program.” It’s about the struggles and racism that African American communities face in today’s culture. The chorus goes:”It’s time to go left and not right/Gotta get it together forever/Gotta get it together for brothers/Gotta get it together for sisters…” While a lot of artists, or even people in general are speaking out against topics such as this, especially with our newly elected President… Some can’t talk about the issues with such effectiveness like A Tribe Called Quest can because not only did they pioneer what rap and hip-hop is today, but they experienced the lack of willingness of acceptance that was present in the beginning in the 1980s, when the group was formed. “We The People…” speaks of the same topic, the hook being: 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.” It’s a somewhat uncomfortable start to the album, but it’s only uncomfortable because they are speaking of real issues that people are pretending aren’t happening, or they are creating the issue.
“Enough!!” and “Black Spasmodic” talk about the struggle of the grind, starting from the bottom, and the struggle of being in love (as cheesy as it sounds). “Black Spasmodic” is the classic story of being at the bottom and barely getting by, but working hard and not quitting to get where you want to go. The last line of the hook being the most powerful: “Used to sell drugs out the Challenger/Now look what he does to any challenger.” “Enough!!” is being worried that while you’re giving your best to one thing like work or art, is it possible to give your best to something or someone else.
“The Killing Season” is related to the tracks “The Space Program” and “We The People…” as far as the topic of the struggles that African Americans face today. The only difference being how while times have changed, behaviors of the majority have not. Racism is still institutionalized and people are still assuming what kind of person you are based of the color of your skin. The track features Kanye West, someone who is not afraid to speak his mind at any given moment, so it can be assumed just how raw and real the song may be.
The album switches topics for a moment for the track “Lose Somebody,” which of course, is about the late Phife Dawg. “Have you ever loved somebody? (Phife dawg, man)/ Way before you got to dream? (Bow wow, woof woof)/ No more crying, he’s in sunshine.” Then the final track of the album titled “The Donald,” which is a reference is to how President Obama referred to Donald Trump at the 2015 White House Correspondents dinner. It is another tribute to Phife Dawg, however they are talking directly to him rather than talking about him. There are no direct references to Donald Trump in the song, but it refers to “Don Juice;” Phife Dawg.
There is no coincidence that A Tribe Called Quest’s last piece of art is not only released just days after the election, but it is almost a tribute or a thanks to the veterans that serve daily for all of us despite our skin color, gender, sexual orientation or religion. It is one album that should not be and will not be taken lightly, and it will start a conversation.