RELEASED: NOVEMBER 11, 2016, Epic Records/Sony Music
Review by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U
On this day, we are celebrating 5 years of promoting great music and gaining respect and credibility from fans and artists. To this I could say “We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service”. But we gonna keep going. Trap music? Mumble Rap? Freestyling from smart phones, WE DON’T DO THAT OVER HERE!
So as a celebration, I decided to review this album, which is a celebration of iconic Hip Hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest, when you mention the words Hip Hop, these are the guys that instantly come into people’s minds who define it and are mentioned in the same sentence with groups such as Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul.
March 22, 2016 was a horrible day to wake up to. Checking your social media has become one of the regular things to do in the morning with brushing your teeth and changing your brief. The loss of Phife Dawg rocked Hip Hop to its foundation and is up there with the losses of Big Pun, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and J Dilla, talking of which, was the first thing on my mind when I heard the news. I remembered Phife’s track ‘Dear Dilla’ which I consider very underrated and slept on. The lyrics in that, looking at it now made me think ‘whoa’… did Phife kinda know he was going? Almost like he dedicated the song to himself?
“Hold tight, this ain’t the last time I see you
Due time, that’s my word, I’mma see you
Frontin’ ass rappers now here stealin’ intros
Posin’ like they hard when we know they all see through…”
While Hip Hop was in mourning for the longest since Sean Price, A Tribe Called Quest reconciled and secretly recorded a comeback album on the back of their recent reunion tour, and two weeks before the allotted release date, they dropped the bomb on us. Yes, half of admitted to be skeptical after the blemish that was ‘The Love Movement’, the rest of us were praising the most high that in the midst of this ‘mumble rap’ era, an album would come along to take us away from all that and take us back to the days of Midnight Mauraders. This is their first album after 18 years, and their ‘true’ final album. Have they gone out in a bang? Or will The Love Movement be the last image that fans will be forced to remember through the ages?
As you hit play on your iTunes (or in my case, CD which I highly recommend you do) you are instantly reminded of why you love ATCQ in the first place. ‘The Space Program’ does just that. You are glad that throughout the history, they finally made something happen here.
‘We The People’ is insanely amazing. The art of the Hip Hop anthem has not been forgotten… when this drop in a party or in a car – THAT’S A WRAP. What’s better, it could not have come at a better time in Trump’s America with Q-Tip’s tongue in cheek humor with the hook, while Phife brings a scathing verse.
The niceness continues will ‘Whateva Will Be’. So far J Dilla is up there smiling and thinking -‘my boys have done it again’ with the Nairobi Sister’s Promised Land sample, where the subject matter of social injustice and Trump’s America continue.
It’s from here now that ATCQ begin to diverse their music whilst keeping it them. A collaboration with Elton John would be the last thing on hip hop heads minds, but when you have been in the game as long as these guys, your exploration of music will branch out. Here a returning Bussa Bus appears in a ‘Solid Wall Of Sound’ in his outta order Jamaican persona, it makes for a very interesting track for listeners to absorb a bit more than the first three tracks previous. It serves as a great intro however to ‘Dis Generation’ where we see the whole tribe minus Consequence going line for line. Their diverse direction starts to ring the ears of Andre 3000 who comes through in ‘Kids’, blending in nicely like he’s part of the tribe too. The way he and Q-Tip describe the way we want our kids to believe something when in reality it’s harder to explain the harsh facts.
In ‘Melatonin’, Q-Tip goes for dolo while Abbey Smith provide extra vocals. great track but I strongly advise NOT to use the drug as it’s design is to help people who have trouble sleeping, and this is a project that 7 tracks in, should NOT be slept on.
I like the fact that ATCQ have maintained some nostalgic elements, like in ‘Enough!!’ The classic instruments used in ‘Bonita Applebum’ are brought back here to continue to please their long time fans and attract new fans in the process. This is one of those tracks that will become a favourite in the long-term after several listens. I also like te fact that ATCQ treated the project as if it was released some 20,25 years ago by including a ‘Side A’ and a ‘Side B’ in the project. Consequence kicks the B Side off with ‘Mobius’, but it’s Busta Rhymes who runs away with this one, channelling his inner Woo-Hah!! into the track! Very interesting how the rest of the tribe stand back and let these two go in, making it sound like ATCQ 2.0.
Just as Bussa Bus tore up Mobius, Phife Dawg puts mumble rappers on blast in ‘Black Spasmodic’: “Trash rap the dead, pu$$y kill the chirping/No more f**k boys, sit down, sh!t can only get worse/And how do you touch mic with flows uncertain?
Speak game dry, boy, that flow ain’t workin’/Folks throwin’ items, them vex and cursin’
F**k made me wanna see these n!&&@$ in person?” Consider it the preparations for the ‘Killing Season’, which brings Talib Kweli and Kanye West into the mix, who thankfully for you hip hop purists has been relegated to just the hook. Also it’s great how they showcased Jarobi & Consequence here.
“Have you ever loved somebody?
Way before you got to dream?
No more crying, he’s in sunshine
He’s alright now, see his wings…”
Another track I consider a growing gem outside the obvious favourites is this one right here – ‘Lost Somebody’, where their expressions for their loss in Phife Dawg becomes very moving.
Even though ATCQ have moved forwards with their music, they decide to try ‘Movin Backwards’ one time and bring Anderson Paak with them. Here Jarobi throws shots at Fetty Wap and all the trap lords, leading by example set by Phife. Then Kendrick chimes in for a memorable, Source Hip Hop Quotable quality verse in Conrad Tokyo while Phife expresses his disdain for the presidential election. Imagine if he actually saw the results in the physical.
‘Ego’ sees Q-Tip going for dolo once again, bringing more nostalgic sounds into it provided by musician Jack White. Great to see him use the wordplay and break down various forms of Ego, even onto himself: “Ego make you violent or govern like a tyrant/Or switch a dictionary’s word from vibrant to vivrant/Fool the thirsty people, selling tap water in bottles/Fooled a girl with NYU scholarship and now she models
Ego has no ending, has people pretending/Religious zealots get jealous ’cause guys want their defending…”
Finally, ‘The Donald’. Which is a unique tribute to Phife which features the Trini Gladiator in his own ode. Salute the man known as Don Juice.
…And Phife Dawg is still not dun! His final solo album will be touching down in our stores sometime next year and that will be even more anticipated than ever now. Let’s keep it 100 – when his first solo dropped, not many of us noticed, all eyes were still on Q-Tip.
A part of me doesn’t want A Tribe Called Quest to end even though they can say they have on a great note. A part of me wants Consequence and Busta to become official and be ATCQ 2.0. They have successfully erased the lasting image The Love Movement had and crafted an album we never saw coming and were given just 2 weeks notice to prepare. 2016 has been a surprise year for the Native Tongues, when just a few months prior, De La Soul blessed us with new music too. Special mention to Busta Rhymes who really went in with this project, making both Dilla and Phife proud, an reminding us of how versatile he really is. While I personally would give the Album Of The Year award to Common, ATCQ is also worth deserving because of the story behind it.
TAKE A BOW GUYS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.