Listening to the newest Tribe Called Album is a strange experience. I liken it to the final episode of Fresh Prince. ATCQ have always seemed like the most amazing, compelling, innovative and revered novel in its genre that just happened to have the last few chapters ripped out; that was the case, until early this morning. Following and emotional re-connection, a handful of performances and an undeniable demand from longtime fans, We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service finally hit [digital] shelves. It is the first focused studio album from the quartet since 1998’s The Love Movement and unfortunately, following the heartbreaking loss of Phife, their final collective effort.
When discussion of a possibility of an album first floated following their handful of festival appearances, Phife was quoted as saying, “Man, we was only 18–19 when we first got started. [When] We broke up we were still like 28. Now we are 35-36. It’d be real different being in the studio. It would be real interesting to see where Q-Tip is. It would all be on a much higher level.” His instinct was correct—We Got It From Here is a smorgasbord of production sensibility that pushes the musicality of the overall product. It seems to appeal to more to Midnight Marauders frame of mind than the darker ‘Umma’ sound that the group explored on The Love Movement. The project feels like a family reunion, with the original crew (including Jarobi) on deck, as well Consequence and Busta Rhymes. It’s a combination of political, socially conscious content blended in with some of the lovable sucker emcee squashing bars we grew to love back in their heyday.
There are a few guest spots, though. Outkast and Tribe may not have gotten it together to do their joint album, but we do get an Andre 3000 siting. On “Kids,” 3 Stacks laments “Kids don’t you know that all this shit is fantasy?” Meanwhile, Tip and Cons speak from a kid’s perspective while dropping gems on them, it’s a cool concept. And that’s not all; Anderson Paak pops up on “Movin Backwards” and Phife, Kendrick Lamar team up for “Conrad Tokyo,” which is an incredible song, and Talib Kweli and Kanye West appear on “Killing Season.” It’s hip-hop history all over this album—no collaborations are out of place.
While the project delivers everything fans have been dreaming about—and more—there are a few moments that resonated especially well with me. Phife’s verse on “Black Spasmodic” which kicks off with “Who want it with the Trini Gladiator…” and the cohesive chemistry on “Dis Generation” have all the elements I’ve always loved about Tribe over the years. The album doesn’t pretend that Phife is still here, though. Much like the lauded D.I.T.C album that dropped almost two-decade ago, there is a ‘tribute’ of sorts to their fallen comrade, “Lost Somebody.”
It all comes down to “The Donald,” the album’s final record. Phife asserts his status, calling out any emcee who believe they can beat him in a battle. The record is built around him and almost puts me in mind of classic 80s jams where the crew talked about how dope their DJ was (see “Jam Master Jay” or “I Wanna Rock“). As Busta chants “Phife Dawg” for the last time, the curtains close on a chapter of hip-hop that will never actually be duplicated. To round back to my original “Fresh Prince” allusion, it feels like the final scene after Will and Carlton hug for the last time—a final goodbye. The album is a wonderful way to honor Phife’s memory for generations to come while giving longtime fans, like me, one last ride on the vibe bus. I have been a fan of Tribe since I was (literally) a child and their music has stuck with me throughout my adult life. They’re my Beatles, in a sense. So as much as my initial listen gave me feels, it’s quickly going to become a staple in my collection. I can’t wait until my pre-order vinyl comes.
Farewell, Phife—and salute to the whole circle. “Linden Blvd., represent, represent.”