The star-studded line-up of guest appearances Tribe have managed to round up is surely enough alone to make this the record of the year. Man of the moment Kendrick Lamar delivers probably one of the impressive verses on the record in the electro-synth sensation that is ‘Conrad Tokyo’, the political exasperation about America’s current situation obvious in his urgently staccato verses that just roll off his tongue as effortlessly as ever. Andre 3000, Anderson Paak, Talib Kweli and even Jack White all also graced Q-Tip’s home studio to lay down their vocals for the record, along with long-time familiar Tribe collaborators Consequence and Busta Rhymes.
‘Solid Wall of Sound’ is one of our favourite tracks on the album, a song built around a ‘Bennie & The Jets’ sample, with lavishly innovative production with the help of none other than Jack White, a signature fast-paced verse from Busta Rhymes and even Elton John himself stepping in for a duet with Q-Tip. Phife also impresses with his Caribbean patois giving the track its true Tribe charm and authenticity.
‘Dis Generation’ is another Applebum favourite, the whole crew united in a funky cypher as Tip, Phife, Jarobi and Busta Rhymes spit bars back and forth, weaving rhymes through each other as they rap about the new generation of hip hop, almost symbolically passing the baton over to the new school: “Talk to Joey, Earl, Kendrick and Cole/ gatekeepers of flow/ they are extensions of instinctual soul”.
You can’t help but to feel haunted by the surreal feeling of hearing Phife’s vocals posthumously on the record, leaving you wondering whether the finished product would sound any different if he had been able to have a final say. ‘Lost Somebody’ is a poignant tribute to the late Funky Diabetic, Tip’s heartfelt verses chronicling Phife’s early life and their brotherhood of a friendship that spanned over 40 years. Perhaps the most heart-breaking moment on the record is Tip’s rap as Phife himself on ‘Black Spasmodic’, imagining what Phife would say to him now if he could. You can feel a lump grow in the back of every long-time Tribe fan’s throat as Tip raps “..and please check in on my mother.”
As ever Q-Tip is the one that shines on this record. His knotty, complex, philosophical rhymes have improved over the years like a fine wine. Aside from his distinctive nasally tone that he can pliably throw in all different directions, his dexterous cadences are what sets him apart from other rappers that have been on the scene as long as him. Tip’s legendary production makes for a solid listen from beginning to end, showcasing a fresh sound that manages to maintain a vintage charm with elements like the ‘Bonita Applebum’ sample on ‘Enough’ evoking nostalgia for fans.
This album truly is a masterpiece – though the genres Tip explores sprawl all over the place he somehow manages to knit the magic together smoothly into a somewhat psychedelic and really quite captivating experience, the kind of record you know is best played all the way through.
To be clear, ‘We Got It From Here..’ is by no means their best album. Musically it is miles away from timeless 90s classics ‘The Low End Theory’ or ‘Midnight Marauders’, but with its significance and timescale it could well be a contender for their most important and ground-breaking.
Its November 11th release was a breath of fresh air in a truly suffocating year of tragedy, radical change, outrage and disappointment. It is a sign that speaks out to the world in a time of crisis in need, signifying that things might just be okay eventually.
Tribe did not need, and most likely did not even set out to create their best ever album, or even put out something that was necessarily going to sell millions of records. The story behind ‘We got it from here..’ goes deeper than that. It’s about speaking out about issues that matter, it’s about uniting the people, it’s about giving the fans what they’ve been waiting so long for, it’s about paying homage to one of the most gifted and endearing emcees that ever lived, and most importantly, it’s about finally dropping the curtain on a three-decade-long career, whilst simultaneously perpetuating their legacy as what many would call the greatest hip hop group of all time. Can A Tribe Called Quest still kick it? Yes, they certainly can.