Music Reviews

A Tribe Called Quest, Through “Unbiased” Ears

A Tribe Called Quest

A review of A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service through unbiased ears.

wegotitfromhere

Let me preface this article with this, I’m biased. I mean, really biased. I’ve been a fan since 7:34pm, April 7, 1990.  My fandom goes back to 1990’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, of which I listened to multiple times a day, 7 days a week…to The Low End Theory, which often argued as the best Tribe album…to Midnight Marauders, which is often argued as the best Tribe album (is there an echo in here?)…to Beats, Rhymes and Life, which…OK, nothing after Midnight Marauders even matters much. Low End Theory is my personal favorite, to which anything Tribe is to be compared. Yeah, I’m biased. I had a copy in the car, in the house, and in my Sony Disc Walkman (I might be old). Did I mention that I’m attempting to be unbiased? As a Tribe fan, this is my attempt to review their first album in 18 years (23 to me, but who’s counting) through unbiased ears.

Wish me luck.

That said, I’m torn. I see the vision. I deal with the nostalgia of albums past. I am aware that music has changed, for better or worse, and their sound has to adapt yet remain true. Oh, and it has to be great…because, it’s Tribe, dammit. Q-Tip, Phife, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Jarobi.

“A-E-I-O-U, and sometimes, Y.”

So, let’s take it from the top. Here’s a glimpse of what my un-biased ears heard.

Space Program 
A solid Tribe track. Quality production. The track moves.  The kinda of track that’ll have you breaking the speed limit in your whip. Nice way to start it off.  I’m impressed at this point.

We The People
Hey look, meaningful content over a beat that actually rocks. Yeah, that’s Tribe. The lyrics are a bit controversial, but why not? Phife flows. I’m all in at this point.

Whateva Will Be
The Dolemite clip in the beginning boosted me. That oft used reggae/dance sonar sound brought me back to a janky van ride through the hills of Jamaica, briefly, but that’s another story for another day. This isn’t the most moving track, but it’s solid Tribe.  It lays the down the basis for tracks to follow.

Solid Wall of Sound

That Benny and the Jets sample is, pardon my French, pure f*cking genius. At this point I’m doing 98 miles per hour in my ’81 Chevette…nostalgia.

a-tribe-called-quest-640x474Dis Generation
Not sure where that guitar came from, but this track is groovy. Quality flow from all. Jarobi and Busta…yeah.

Kids…
Andre 3000 off the break…word? I so didn’t see that coming. Ok. Let’s go. Three Stacks and Tip sparring on the same track is a refreshing, to say the least.

Melatonin
Comes in with a nice guitar riff that flows throughout the track. This level of production is not common in today’s hip-hop. Very Q-Tip-ish track and flow. Not something I’d expect in a Tribe album, but hey…I’m OK with it.

Enough!!
A clever track with hints of sexual innuendo. Jarobi delivers the first verse with ease. Another Q-Tip-esque production, “My thrust busts artery…”, that resonates well.

Mobius
Boom-bappery, head-bopping intro. Consequence delivers. Busta aggressively growls his way in with a verse that sounds like he didn’t bother to write, rehearse or shower beforehand. I’m on the fence with this one.

Black Spasmodic
Hold on while I google “spasmodic”.  OK, I’m back, and there’s that sonar sound again. I actually love this track. A lot. Like I wanna move in with this track. We’re gonna pick out furniture tomorrow. *presses repeat*

19_77194726The Killing Season
Kanye delivers the hook on this politically influenced track. Add Consequence and Talib Kwali to the mix and you have a mediocre track with real content. I’ll take the trade-off.

Lost Somebody
Loving the melodic piano vibe of this. A light chorus that underlines Q-Tip and Phife’s flows. It’s smooth. It’s cool. Then it’s like…STOP IT WITH THE DAMN DRUM LOOPS!!! It sounds a bit rushed, unfinished.  Track ruined, for me. And like a bad infomercial it comes back, “but wait, there’s more”.  Just need this song to be over. Maybe it’ll grow on me.

Moving Backwards 
Anderson Paak! Nuff said. Awesome production on this one. Groovy.

Conrad Tokyo
There’s that sound again. Very melodic. Phife delivers with a solid verse. Kendrick Lamar blesses this. It’s a light, fun track that has hints of Tribe’s past.

Ego

This is actually the type of track I expected from ATCQ. A melodic track with Q-Tip delivering a flow, which only he could, that matches seamlessly over the beat.

screen-shot-2016-03-23-at-5-54-32-amThe Donald
I read the title and thought…Trump? Well, nah. This is Phife’s farewell. More like a self-delivered goodbye message from the 5-footer himself, to remind you he could flow. Q-Tip chimes in with a fast-flow verse and Busta lays the infectious, dancehall influenced, chant “Phife Dawg”. A great tribute to Phife, and a great way to wrap up what had to be an incredibly painful, yet much needed, album to release.

Overall, I give it a high B.

Tastes in musical will vary, and so will opinions, but the quality of the production on this cannot be denied. You’re not getting club-bangers, or a bunch of hip-hop quotables, but you will get music. Good music…and that’s what counts here. It’s not The Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders, but who realistically expects those albums to be outdone? Not me, not ever.

Well done.

 

 

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