Few artists and collectives in today’s musical landscape have had a legacy which can rival A Tribe Called Quest's. Five studio albums of pioneering, left field hip hop commenting on and influencing hip hop culture in the US, as well as countless solo and side projects from group members, solidified Tribe’s place in the hip hop hall of fame.
31 years since their inception, the loss of founding member Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor to diabetes earlier this year signified to most of the world the end of ATCQ. However, secret reunions and recording sessions between original members of the group have given the grieving masses one last album. In a year where police brutality, economic hardships and political turmoil have plagued people across the world it could be exactly what we needed.
In ‘Gotta Get It Together’ ATCQ open their first album in 18 years on a very political and revolutionary note. Political commentary is nothing new for Tribe members Q Tip, Phife Dawg, Muhammad and Jarobi, but given the current political climate it is particularly poignant on this release. Themes of African American identity, inner city struggles and current political uneasiness are carried across the record and developed on tracks like ‘Dis Generation’, ‘Kids…’ and ‘Tokyo’.
Many diehard fans may have been concerned that after such a long hiatus the lyrical prowess and the production quality that ATCQ became known for would have faded. However, this is clearly not the case. Verses from all the members of the crew as well as unofficial member Busta Rhymes and even a back to back between Q Tip and Andre 3000, hit home the album's themes with verbal dexterity.
Similarly, production across the album is a real highlight, leaving anyone who had doubts about the return of one of America’s most loved hip hop acts soundly proven wrong.
Expertly selected samples reminiscent of hip hop’s golden era, as well as fresh collaborations with artists like Anderson .Paak, Elton John and even Jack White, all flow into beats that encourage an irresistible head nod. This is all tied together with nostalgic, hard-hitting but often delicate percussion.
Any review of this album would clearly be remiss if it didn’t mention one of the albums enduring themes. We Got It From Here… Thank you 4 Your Service is a heartfelt goodbye and thank you to Phife Dawg. This celebration of his life can be pinpointed in tracks like, ‘Lost Somebody’ and ‘The Donald’, which, fair warning, might bring a tear to your eye.
Most interestingly, Phife’s verses (previously unheard and recorded shortly before his death) also form a part of this narrative, back and forths between Phife and other vocalists on the album create an eerie yet beautiful conclusion to the Tribe legacy.
Overall this album is nothing short of a must listen for any hip hop fan. Well written and produced tracks provide backing to songs which would go down equally well at a house party as they would a political demonstration.
Whilst the lyrics, features and political messages, of the album are undeniably up to date, this album is really the final part of a 31 year story. Ultimately, the buck is passed on to the new generation of artists and reminds anyone who was in doubt that Tribe are still on point. All the time.