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A Tribe Called Quest looks back and forward
A Tribe Called Quest has just released what the group says is thelr last effort.
By Patrick Donachie

A Tribe Called Quest’s new album “We’ll Take It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service,” will be their last, according to the group, particularly after founding member Mailk “Phife Dawg” Taylor’s death earlier this year. The album is utterly in keeping with the rest of the seminal hip-hop group’s discography without ever giving into the pull of nostalgia.

Though the new album by the group, which hails from Queens, was created over the past year, it seems particularly timely in the aftermath of the presidential election.

The album’s roots lay in a reunion of the group in November 2015 on “The Tonight Show” to celebrate the reissuing of their debut album “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.” That show aired on the same evening as the Paris terror attacks. Phife Dawg; Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, known as Q-Tip; MC Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad agreed to meet weeks later at Q-Tip’s home studio in New Jersey. After Phife Dawg’s death in February from diabetes complications it was assumed that the group would not release another album, and fans were overjoyed in August to hear an album was forthcoming.

The guest performers cover a wide range—from Kanye West supplying the hook on “The Killing Season” and Kendrick Lamar adding a verse on “Conrad Tokyo,” to a spot by Elton John on “Solid Wall of Sound” and Jack White’s gnarled guitar on “Ego.” But you couldn’t pick out the guests without a peek at the liner notes, and they remain subservient to the atmosphere the group concocts throughout.

The live instrumentation offers a DIY sheen to the minutely crafted backgrounds that are the foundation for the MCs. The aggression tends to be found in the agility of the raps, whether from Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, White or frequent Tribe guests Busta Rhymes and Consequence. Several of the songs continue in the vein of Tribe’s previous political work, with elliptical yet pointed critiques of the criminal justice system and the continued plight African-American communities face.

“Imagine for one second all the people are colored, please

Imagine for one second all the people in poverty

No matter the skin tone, culture or time zone

Think the ones who got it

Would even think to throw you a bone?”

Q-Tip raps this in the opening song “The Space Program,” asserting that such a program might be beyond reach for the disenfranchised throughout the country.

Yet the presidential election remains impossible to shake in several moments throughout the record. In the chorus of “We the People,” Q-Tip breaks into a chorus of “All you black folks, you must go, all you Mexicans, you must go.” By doing so, he levels a pointed critique of the President-elect’s campaign rhetoric. We all sing along, but if we stop to think, we may shiver at the thought.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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