Being a kid is tough. You're forging an identity and finding your path through trial and error. So much uncertainty fills your world, which leads to confusion. Life seems to pull you in different directions. Then, you hear a record like Low End Theory. It catapults you into an identity, into a space where communication is familiar and becomes the language you speak. That's why A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) is so personal to so many people. Their records changed you.
This album is political and timely as we find ourselves at a crossroads as a country. America doesn't feel the same after our recent election. Those feelings of confusion and uncertainty seem to be taking hold of each and every righteous American. Then, ATCQ communicates exactly what we need to hear in an uncertain time. Their new record, We Got It From Here ... Thank You For Your Service, is laden with offerings of guidance. With songs like "We the People..." they give voice to the uncertainty of the times in a way that only true artists can - assisting you with a road map back to yourself. A way back home.
The album is an ode to Phife Dawg, The Five Foot Assasin, who still shines as the edge of the group and the one who continues to keep the group grounded in their NY roots. On this album, he stands out as he did on the group's other ventures, through his style and wordplay. One of his more memorable moments is when he is trading patois with Busta Rhymes on "Solid Wall of Sound" and with his brother Q-Tip on "Black Spasmodic". Phife, never one to shy away from his Trinidadian roots, cuts and slices through the song with his patois raps. It's a fitting honor to a friend we all lost too soon.
We Got it From Here ... Thank You For Your Service represents the old and the new. Andre 3000, arguably one of the Top Five alive, trades shots and bars with Q-Tip on "Kids", a song that lets the kids know "all this shit is fantasy". For real. Then, Talib Kweli blesses the front half of "The Killing Season", a commentary on survival in a racist society. Oh, and don't forget Jack White's guitar guidance on such songs as the Low End Theory-esque "Ego" and Elton John's magnificent appearance on "Solid Wall of Sound". The new kids on the block come into the record on the back half, with Anderson PAAK appearing on "Moving Backwards" and Kendrick Lamar on "Conrad Tokyo". These moments make the album feel magical. A twisting and surprising journey, where with each turn, it becomes more and more exhilarating.
Tribe's legacy was cemented. Yet, this album feels like the send off all music fans have yearned for; an honoring of what made ATCQ your childhood guide with a message for today that points us in a new direction. As the final chapter in a story written by some of today's most prolific poets, it's only fitting that we also say goodbye to Phife Dawg in this special way, following him on his final journey through music.
So, the question on everyone's mind is, "Is this a classic album?" In the vein of Low End Theory & Midnight Marauders? We would venture to argue this may be their best yet. Maybe it's nostalgia. Maybe it's the timeliness of the message. Yet, isn't this what defines a classic album? Pieces of the past that remind you how you got here and guidance for the future to help you get where you are going.
Images via Instagram.