Explaining the return of A Tribe Called Quest to the pop firmament is nigh impossible without hyperbole, so here goes: Imagine The Beatles had reunited to give us all one last classic, something as substantive as Abbey Road — instead of “Free as a Bird,” the quaint single the Fab Four released 25 years after breaking up. Tribe wasn’t the first hip-hop act to try sensitivity (after all, LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” predates the group’s 1990 debut, People’s Instinctive Travelsand the Paths of Rhythm). But the members — Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White — brought an everyman aspect to rap at a time when it was dominated by groups of outsized, superheroic stature: Run-DMC, N.W.A, Public Enemy. The release today of new music from the venerated crew, 18 years after what was supposed to be its final album, is that impossibly rare musical event: a long gone, much beloved act reappearing with its creative powers intact.
We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is both a reunion and a tribute, arriving just a few months after the death of Phife Dawg, whose lyrical interplay with fellow MC Q-Tip was the backbone of the group for much of its history and who contributed to the album before succumbing to complications from diabetes in March. In that way, the album is a throwback, the first true collaboration between Tip and Phife since the group broke up in 1998. But within its first few tracks, We Got It from Here announces itself as a product of its moment.
Q-Tip is my title, I don’t think that it’s vital For me to be your idol, but dig this recital If you can’t envision a brother who ain’t dissing Slinging this and that, cause this and that was missing Instead, it’s been injected, the Tribe has been perfected Oh yes, it’s been selected, the art makes it protected