DECEMBER: We Got It From Here… – A Tribe Called Quest

Ach, so late on this one. Soooooo sorry.

I mean, there’s not much to say in a weird way, is there? After an EIGHTEEN YEAR gap, and after losing one of the group’s cornerstones and founder members, Phife Dawg, and without much of a contribution from Ali Shaheed, who would be have been surprised if ATCQ would have returned with something a bit tired, a bit old, a bit derivative.

Instead, they rock up with one of the albums of the year and add a genuine new chapter to an already glittering career. Like Bowie’s Blackstar, this album is one you’d be happy to put next to their finest like their debut or Midnight Marauders.

Let’s be clear: they’re not totally reinventing themselves, and there is something enjoyably familiar about hearing that ATCQ sound. But what makes this such a thrilling listen is to hear Q-Tip and the crew sounds so vital, so passionate, so playful and so political.

It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. The first four or five songs are all stone cold classics, and almost every contribution brings out the best in everyone – the tracks with Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak are all total standouts. It also rewards repeated plays, and each time I find a new track that I’ve overlooked.

If there’s a criticism, it’s maybe that with it’s a touch overlong, and with the loss of 2 or 3 tracks, it would have been flawless. But actually, there’s not really a track I dislike intensely, and I love nearly all of it.

Welcome back ATCQ. The world missed you. The world needs you.

7 comments

  1. misterstory

    Happy New Year brothers. Thanks for the CD Brother David and cheers for putting the write-up up.

    Basically I agree with everything that you said. There’s not much I want to add. It feels fresh and new but also familiar which is a great mix and quite a trick to pull off. I have not read loads about this so am not sure on production credits etc but I think it all hangs together well as an album (still quite rare in the genre I think) particularly with so many guests. I totally agree that the guests all bring their A game each and every one. Mr. Paak and Mr 3000 being the standout guests for me. Andre 3000 sounds so cool on his track.

    I also agree on criticism too. There is a real trend at the moment for LOOOONG albums and for my money a lot of albums could be better for cutting the odd track. I’d much rather a shorter, tighter piece. Even if this album did drop two tracks it’d still be a significant chunk of music. For me its the last 3 tracks Conrad Tokyo, Ego and The Donald that I feel could go. However I will admit that due to the length I rarely get through the album in one sitting and find myself starting from Track 1 next time. This means I am less familiar with these three tracks so maybe not fair comment.

    That all taken into account, its probably one of my albums of the year … its ATCQ album after all!

    Will this be a clean sweep of approval from the Brothers?

  2. nolankane706

    Full disclosure, I love Tribe Called Quest, even on their lesser albums. It was going to take allot for me to dislike this album. After watching ‘Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest’ a few years back I thought there was a very small chance of Phife and QTip ever getting back int he studio together, let alone releasing an album that they gelled on.

    Many moons ago I was lucky enough to have Phife on my radio show as a guest. The excitement I had when i called up brother Joey to tell him it was happening was very close to the levels that my body felt when I first heard ‘We The People’. Seriously, WTF… all the trials and tribulations of Tribe over the last 16 years were worth it to get to this point!

    Tribe have always had a good format to their albums which many other groups have followed. Some tracks with all MC’s, and some with just one that lets the MC delve into their own style. For Tribe this has always in my opinion been hit and miss. This album is the same. The aforementioned songs that brother Joey has highlighted are all three on this format. Separate from Joey, I do love ‘Ego’ by Qtip, but think that Phife fell short with ‘The Donald’ and ‘Conrad Tokyo’. For arguments sake I will say that I’d prefer a couple average songs from Phife than none at all.

    One pleasant addition is the re-introduction of Jarobi White who returned to Tribe and took a bigger role on the mic than he has historically. For me he held his own throughout the album. Tribe have always opened their albums up to guests and this time around they went full out with long time collaborators as well as the best of the best in music as of late.

    It saddens me that this is their final bow, but they have left with a bang. For me this album is one of their best, an my album of the year for 2016.

  3. misterstory

    I’ve spent a lot more time with this since I posted early Jan. I also had the chance to actually physically see Brothers David and Nolan and discussed in person. I think my initial feelings are/were correct – I think this album was supposed to end with ‘Lost Somebody’ which makes complete sense following the death of Phife. I appreciate Nolan’s learned Hip Hop knowledge regarding tracks at the end of the album as ‘solo’ runnings for each MC … but if that’s the case then it’s a miss-step. For me this album ends with Lost Somebody, then there is a 30 second silence followed by some guitar fiddling followed by ‘Movin Backwards’ which feels like a very welcome ‘Bonus Track’ (and one of my favourites) …. then Conrad Tokyo, Ego and The Donald happen. What are they, bonus tracks, additional materials, ‘deluxe edition’ fodder. Nolan is right, Ego is the strongest of these 3 but I would not swap it for any of tracks 1-13. If this album was Tracks 1 – 12 + Bonus 13 it would be incredible but is all the weaker for having extra tracks. This seems to happen a lot recently. I’d much rather have 10 belting solid tracks than those 10 + 4 others. It ruins the impression of the whole. It kills the sequencing even if they’re at the end of the album as if listing on repeat (which I do loads with AOTMs) it murders the flow.

    This is one of my albums of 2016. It is one of my favourite Hip Hop albums ever. But it could be easily improved by chopping the duffers.

  4. David Allison

    Can’t agree more with your post, Joey. Spot on. It is a shame about those last tracks, but I’ve found myself stopping just before they begin. It is, otherwise, a MAGNIFICENT piece of work, and I keep finding more and more joy in it.

  5. Paul Adderson

    I’m a bit late on replying but I’ve been struggling to get all the way through the whole album on repeated listens. I like hip-hop but I don’t *love* hip-hop like Brother Nolan and so I wouldn’t expect to connect with the entire work as strongly. I’ll admit, my brief history with ATCQ is probably the same like most others with buying Can I Kick It back in the day and I didn’t tune in after that. So when they came back, it wasn’t as big a deal for me as it was to others. But I tell you what, the first five or so tracks are of the highest quality and it feels to the less-trained ear in the genre like most of the work’s gone into making the first half more immediate. The Space Program is a full-on mission statement, with the coda urging the three to “let’s make something happen” does set the tone. There’s a variety of styles leading up to Dis Generation which skips along beautifully (Dis Generation with its key sample in the chorus makes it instantly accessible and for me it’s the standout track). But… it’s after this where I have trouble tuning in. I’ve tried a few times starting my listening after this point to get a feel for what I might be missing but there’s too much of a fall-off and I end up a little bored. It’s a shame because I really enjoyed the first third but it’s not kept my interest in the long run.

  6. whyohwhyohwhy

    Ok, I should’ve posted before India, but it’s no exaggeration to say that this is one of the best hip-hop albums I’ve heard in the last decade, and definitely in the top 10 I’ve ever heard. It’s so vital, even if it was written before Trump was elected, covers so many issues in a way that many artists wouldn’t. Even the confrontational and social commentary pieces don’t have to be in the face like Kendrick or a sledgehammer like Jay-Z. It’s done with such grace, style and intelligence that speaks in such a direct, clever way, it’s an album I really, really connected with.

    But on top of this, they’re great, great songs. The hooks, the beats, the samples – from Musical Youth on Dis Generation, or Elton on Wall Of Sound, or the scuzzy funk of We The People – they’re a band back on top of their game. I’ve listened to this all the way through a good 20 times now, and while I don’t always get to do it all in one go, it’s grown on me. In fact, given the current US political climate, it’s sad to say the songs vibrate even more brightly than they would have done last year.

    And of course, this is all set against the backdrop of another sad music death. Phife and the story of how ATQC got back together and made the album (after years of resistance from Q-Tip), how they had more tracks to make and yet how it’s not going to happen.

    But what an epitaph.

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