A Tribe Called Quest’s final album couldn’t have come at a better time

By Ethan McAlpin | gargoyle@flagler.edu

atcqTwo weeks ago, A Tribe Called Quest released their final album “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service.”  The idea began just over a year ago after a reunion performance on The Tonight Show.  Via social media, band member Q-Tip shared the story of that night and the good feeling the group got while performing together again for the first time in 18 years and that’s when the wheels began to turn.

Tragically, group member Phife-Dawg passed away on March 22 of this year. But, the group had enough of the blueprint for the album to be able to complete it throughout this year.  Due to Phife-Dawg’s death, the remaining members of A Tribe Called Quest decided that this would most definitely be their final album together.

Nearly 20 years after the release of their previously most recent album “The Love Movement,” from 1998, ATCQ’s latest album, “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service”, found its legs and took off running as soon as it was released. After initially projecting sales to be around 60,000 to 70,000 units within the first week after the album’s release, “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service” has well surpassed the initial projection and is estimated sell 120,000 albums by Nov. 17., according to Billboard Magazine.  However, those numbers mean nothing without further examining the contents of the hip-hop group’s final album.

Featuring the likes of André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, Elton John, Kanye West, Anderson .Paak, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, and Consequence, the album is packed with political, socioeconomic, and racial themes throughout.

Wasting no time diving into the album’s motivation, the album’s initial track, “The Space Program” discusses politics, as the late Phife Dawg, co-founder of A Tribe Called Quest, raps, “time to go left and not right.”  This line demonstrates Phife’s political aspirations of wanting people to consider democratic social views, relating to the divide of opinions regarding the treatment of those in a lower economic state.  For example, later in the song, Jarobi, a member of the group, raps, “they planning for our future, none of our people involved,” signifying the lack of representation of black people in America within the government and how that can lead to the thoughts and input of blacks being disregarded or going unseen.

The album then flows into “We The People…,” the second track, meant as advice to America to embrace unity and togetherness in this time in America.  This song not only is in regard to the recent Presidential election that has divided America politically, but it also spurs from racial and religious discrimination, police brutality, and lack of female equality, among other trends in America this year.  “We The People…” perfectly sets the tone for the remainder of the album.

Later in the album’s track list, “The Killing Season” discusses exactly what it proclaims; specifically, black killings in America.  Relating life as a black person to the feeling of a constant war, Taleb Kweli raps, “it’s war and we fighting for inches and millimeters.”  He continues, “they try to stall the progress by killing off all the leaders,” illustrating a vivid comparison of the past few years in America to life in the ’50s and ’60s and the black men and women who have been vocal leaders, activists, and role models in the black community.  A few lines later, Kweli concludes the verse with, “the force flags fly at a half mast this morning,” signifying the spur of black killings this year, as Kweli says, “take a bow, this might be your last performance.”  Scary and sad, yet the idea of the possibility of each day being your last a reality for many blacks and minorities of all ethnicities or religions in present day America.

One of the final songs on the album, “Conrad Tokyo,” discusses the (at the time it was recorded) upcoming Presidential election and the mockery the large majority of America seemed to make of it it.  Pointing out how American’s have become complacent with defeat and how there has become a “toleration for devastation,” the late Phife Dawg discusses his distaste for those who tolerate defeat, providing inspiration for us to get up and do something about it and fight for what is right, rather than sit back and let the victors reign free.

“The ego makes you do it, it makes you face the music,” Q-Tip raps in “Ego,” a relatively uplifting song that helps close out the album.  Relating to the album as a whole, including the many themes and topics that comprise the entire body of work, “Ego” provides advice and encouragement in moving forward in today’s society.  The ego is a very powerful component of ourselves; many might argue too powerful.

Given the current situation in America that embodies racial and religious discrimination, police brutality, and lack of female equality, among other issues; whatever your stance may be, face the music.  Don’t shy away and “run away from life so fast you’ll outspent Carl Lewis,” as Q-Tip advises.  Throughout the album, A Tribe Called Quest discusses the many problems and messed up things in America. However, the group, accompanied by guest features on the album throughout, provide inspiration and encouragement for us to keep working, keep fighting, and never stopping until we achieve what we believe is right.

Stream ATCQ’s final album “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service” on Spotify below.

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