A Tribe Called Quest turned in their final record, “We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service,” in November 2016. Now that the record has passed the five-year mark, let’s take a look back at a record you might have forgotten about.
This series aims to take a retrospective look at three records from 2016: one that was popular but you might have forgotten, one that you might have missed and one that it’s time to stop pretending not to like.
“We Got it From Here” represents A Tribe Called Quest’s sixth entry. The pioneering rap quartet had not released a record since 1998. With Phife Dawg passing away from diabetes complications between recording and release, it is the band’s final record.
The record was a critical success. It received a 91 out of 100 on Metacritic, Rolling Stone awarded it four out of five stars and called it the fifth-best rap album of the year and Pitchfork gave it a 9 out of 10. It reached number one on the Billboard Top-200, finished the year at No. 94 and was certified gold by the RIAA.
It doesn’t seem to have the staying power of its contemporaries like Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo” or Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book.” That’s a shame because it is a record that goes far beyond the two singles — a record full of star power and messages that remain salient more than five years later.
The record includes contributions from, among others, rock legends Elton John and Jack White and hip hop stars Kanye West, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes and Anderson .Paak.
The two singles “We the People…” and “Dis Generation” hold down side one, while “Black Spasmodic” and “Conrad Tokyo” force you to flip the record and keep the no-skip-fest going.
Verses focus on issues of gentrification, xenophobia, global warming and police violence experienced through the eyes of aging stars. The album also features songs that pass the metaphorical torch to this generation of musical innovators and songs that seem to give a farewell to the group.
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Though a lot of the record is heavy and political, the artists also find themselves dropping lighter verses, joking about their place in the rap hierarchy and how well they would fare in rap battles.
Musically, the record is varied and interesting. The instrumentation varies across the album and includes all types of beats. It’s also chock-full of samples from movies, music and TV shows.
For example, Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” provides the musical and lyrical basis for the song “Solid Wall of Sound.” With Busta Rhymes, Phife Dawg and Q-Tip rapping over samples, Elton John finally busts in at the end with an original recording for the song.
Other samples include various blaxploitation films, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and even Black Sabbath. Blaxploitation films emerged in the 1970s — made predominantly by black crews for black audiences — and got their name as a combination of “Black” and “exploitation.” Films of the genre often focused on subjects like crime, sex, drugs and racial tensions.
The final song on the record, “The Donald,” is a tribute to Phife — who occasionally went by “Don Juice” — and passed away during production. Phife’s final verse on the album ends with “put down microphone,” and the last verse on the record repeats Phife’s name over and over again before ending abruptly with “Phife Dawg” and then silence.
“We Got it From Here” is available on several streaming platforms. Check back next week to read about a record you might have missed entirely.