A Tribe Called Quest are one of the pillars of 1990s hip hop, with hits such as ‘Electric Relaxation’, ‘Award Tour’ and, perhaps their biggest crossover, ‘Can I Kick It?’. Work on this album, Quest’s first album in 18 years, and their final, had been underway when member Phife Dawg passed away on March 22, 2016.
This loss shook the world of music, and, understandably, the remaining Quest members – Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White – are still coming to terms with it. However, in Q-Tip’s words, armed with Dawg’s “blueprint of what we had to do”, the Quest members reformed, tapped up old friends, such as Busta Rhymes, as well as the likes of Talib Kweli, André 3000, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak, and have delivered a sublime hip hop buffet.
We Got It from Here is layered with songs that make you want to turn up the volume. Opening the album with a stirring two-step, which is wound up in an ever-shortening tempo before eventually dropping into a moreish rhythm, while Q-Tip and Dawg leap straight in to provide the hook, ‘The Space Program’ is scorching. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, which is a solid blend of Quest’s prodigious talent for flavoursome sounds and their desire to deliver conscious messages.
Melodic piano knocks and nodding stomp (‘Solid Wall of Sound’), squashed funk (‘The Killing Season’) and off-kilter soul with record scratches all bring an element of Quest’s ’90s albums to mind. While fellow hip hop returnees, De La Soul, chose to include many disparate elements on their 2016 album, And the Anonymous Nobody, it garnered a mixed response.
When it comes to bringing their sound up to date, Quest have done a first-rate job of making sure the music is right for what they intend to convey. Examples of this are the hypnotic synth plods of ‘Kids’, the moreish electronic threading of ‘Conrad Tokyo’, and the surreal, Jeff Wayne-esque undertone of standout track ‘Melatonin’.
Boasting strong conscious lyricism, ace guest appearances and a range of delicious productions, We Got It from Here is a fitting tribute to Phife Dawg, and a powerful send-off for this pioneering hip hop group.
We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is out now on Epic Records.
Image: Epic Records