Knowledgeable rap fans can agree that A Tribe Called Quest is one of the most instrumental and innovative hip-hop groups in the history of music. As pillars of the golden age, the Queens-bred crew weren't afraid to pull inspiration from funk, jazz and afro beat. Their legacy in music was hard-earned thanks to classic 1990s albums like People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders.
When original member Phife Dawg passed away earlier this March due to complications from diabetes, the hip-hop community past and present mourned the loss, but it seemed to set a fire under the remaining members of the crew
Two weeks ago, Q-Tip shared the name and release date of the final Tribe album (their first album since 1998) on Instagram. A week later, the crew unveiled the tracklist for the project, jam-packed with some of the most coveted names in the business. Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, Jack White and Elton John just to name a few -- yes, the Elton John. We Got It From Here... Thank You for Your Service will finally be available for mass consumption on Friday (Nov. 11).
The closing chapter of ATCQ had another climax last night (Nov. 9) as Epic Records and the Tribe took over MoMa PS1 in Long Island City, Queens for the official first listening of the LP. ATCQ's signature striped woman emblem was projected throughout the four corners of PS1's igloo-like dome. While rap OGs and industry insiders sipped champagne and themed drinks like "Electric Relaxation," DJ Prince Paul played MC for the evening, warming up his patrons with 1990s classics before running through the 16 tracks on the album. Q-Tip, Jarobi White, Consequence and Busta Rhymes entered the building around 8:30 p.m. and showed love to every face they knew.
By 9 p.m., the album listening was finished and Tip, White, Cons and Busta settled onto the small stage by the DJ booth for a quick panel discussion about the music. With just a few days left before the album drops and they appear as first-time musical guests for Saturday Night Live, the legends seemed jovial and triumphant. Here's what we learned about We Got It From Here... Thank You for Your Service.
Busta Rhymes, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak boast standout feature verses.
With some of the biggest names across all genres making appearances on the LP, the Tribe's choice of tapping new school acts like Kendrick Lamar and 2016 XXL Freshman Anderson .Paak proved to be crowd pleasers. Old school rap fans will also be pleased with additions like Busta Rhymes.
Phife Dawg's legacy is all throughout the album.
As Busta explained at the beginning of the panel discussion, he and Q-Tip were in talks about putting together an album after Tribe had a wildly successful reunion appearance on The Tonight Show last November. But Busta thought it was all talk until they actually got in the stu.
"That was the first time that Q-Tip said, 'Alright, I'm with it,'" explained Busta. "I thought he was bullshitting. I didn't think it was really gonna happen. I thought he was just in the moment, the whole anniversary celebration. The next day, he still said he was with it."
Once Phife Dawg passed away in March, the loss lit an even hotter fire under the artists. Phife's vocals can be heard on some of the tracks while on others, the booming voice of Busta rapping Phife's praises garnered rowdy cheers from the listening audience.
Inspiration for the album came from rap to rock.
When asked how they prepared to write the lyrics and forge the beats for the new LP, Tip said they dug in the crates for inspiration.
"We played to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen. Then we'd put on 'Money Trees' by Kendrick. Everything. Rakim," he shared.
The guys locked themselves in the studio to write their lyrics.
Busta and Tip laughed about writing lyrics in the studio together -- Tip even did an awesome impression of Busta on the phone. The latter especially loved the nostalgic feeling of it all.
As opposed to writing live Busta explained they had a process. "Everybody just send their little ProTools to each other, and you get the verse back in an email," he stated.
The members were constantly trying to one-up each other's rhymes.
Competition was definitely the name of the game for the guys! Busta recalled seeing the other rappers react to their lines as they wrote, which pushed him to go back and switch out his own bars for stronger punchlines.
Making this album made them feel like kids again.
As a seasoned vet, it can be hard to rekindle that eager spirit of a young and hungry MC. But as Q-Tip described, putting this album together this way restored their youthful artistry.
"The drapings of ageism and questions of where we're at, that shit flew out the fucking window," Q-Tip said. "We just locked in. We became fucking kids again."