Let me start off by saying that all of ‘We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service’ bangs. A Tribe Called Quest has really outdone themselves with this one. At one point during my first listen, I wondered how long it would be before any other album would be added into my listening rotation. As it turns out, it will be quite some time.
Overall, the album flows in all the right places and breaks rhythm perfectly. In what is both their first album in 18 years and their final album, they pulled out all the stops. It is clear, throughout the entire album, that Tribe has a mind towards sampling, including everything from Elton John to the Oompa Loompa song. In addition to samples they have an all-star set of featured artists, from Andre 3000 to Kanye West.
The album opens up with a strong political message, “It’s time to go left and not right,” that persists throughout the rest of the album, along with strong racial and cultural messages. With a lyrical element that is as intelligent as it is powerful, Tribe calls attention to the severe inequality, oppression and cultural appropriation that African-Americans face everyday.
Though each song offers a unique sound and contributes to the album’s success as a whole, some tracks stand out.
“The Space Program,” opens the album with an interesting juxtaposition of a bouncy, lighthearted beat under lyrics that reference a political climate plagued with racial injustices. Then, “We the People…” hits harder, both rhythmically and vocally. With lyrics like, “gentrify here now it’s not a shit hole,” and “Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways,” Tribe brings light to the negative attitude that is held towards marginalized groups in the U.S.
“Melatonin” is easily one of the best tracks on the album. It’s smooth and psychedelic, but deals with a really emotionally darker side of member Q-Tip. This sets it apart from the rest of the album that is, up to this point, characterized by mostly upbeat or fast-paced rhythms. Thematically, though, the entire album is a lament of the suppression of Black culture, identity and expression.
Following “Melatonin,” the tone of the album changes. With “The Killing Season,” Tribe draws attention to police brutality and “Lost Somebody” talks about struggles of the group moving on and trying to continue recording the album after the death of member Phife Dawg.
The record definitely retains all of the tropes of a good ’90s hip-hop album, which is good news for anyone who wanted to see a glimmer of the old Tribe shine through. However, the album holds its place among modern, more experimental hip-hop albums with impeccable mixing, strong social commentary and lyrical complexity.
There’s no question that this record will be considered one of the best hip-hop albums, and one of the best albums overall, of 2016. If you haven’t listened yet, you’re missing out.