Words by Chris Rivera
Amiss all of the controversy facing our country this week, it’s nice to finally catch a break; that break coming in the form of a new album dropped today by A Tribe Called Quest. The 1985 hip hop group is comprised of Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jacobi White and the late Phife Dawg. Q-Tip called this album a tribute to Phife Dawg. A sad day in hip-hop indeed, while working on this project he suddenly passed away earlier this year in March, after a long battle with diabetes.
This group was arguably one of the best hip-hop groups of the genre. They released five albums together, pulling from so many style of music from jazz to r&b; the trio and producer created some of the most thoughtful and conscious lyrics we’ve ever seen. Unfortunately due to internal conflicts over style and direction, the group split in 1998. Fortunately his memory was more then kept alive on this album. The talent that floods each track is astounding; we hear from Jack White, André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Busta Rhymes, Anderson Paak, Talib Kweli and even Kanye West.
The album’s overall vibe can be described as fun but very conscious, the beats are bouncy, the lyrics are thoughtful. In an interview yesterday with CBS, Q-Tip said the one track he would have us look for was the album’s first song “The Space Program”. Once you give the song a listen to, you can see why it’s Tip’s favorite on the album. It’s lyrics talk of “getting it together”, doing so for yourself and those around you. I found it to be very reminiscent to many of Q-Tips tracks, he has a very political, empowerment vibe to his lyrics. The song’s name, “The Space Program” stood out to me, space being the “final frontier”, a place of endless possibility. But does the name have even more hidden meaning; as we know our Space program was governmentally defunded. Is Tribe trying to point out we are paying our attention to the wrong areas of our lives and government? The song even takes samples from the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, the part where Willy Wonka is yelling, “Yes, the danger must be growing, for the rowers keep on rowing and they’re certainly not showing, any signs that they are slowing”. A metaphor perhaps? I found the whole album very cohesive, each track flowing nicely from one to the next, the features were well placed, allowing for each lyricist to really play off one another. My favorite feature was Anderson Paaks on the track, “Movin Backwards.” The LA Artist has really grown on me recently. I was able to see him this past month live at Suwannee’s Hulaween complete with a live band and a mullet. His west coast style and flow compliment the NYC style of Q-Tip and the rest of the Tribe.
Christmas really did come early this year with this album release. I definitely find it to be a fitting tribute to one of the best in hip-hop. I look forward to seeing this album performed live, should A Tribe Called Quest decide to tour this upcoming year