A TRIBE CALLED QUEST: We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service

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…” 

actq-new-albumWhile 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.

snl-a-tribe-called-quest-busta

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.

DR. DRE – Compton: A Soundtrack

WRITTEN BY MARK MCAULEY

Co-written by Michael Grant (Editor)

compton-dr-dre-streamIt was like the new Terminator Genisys film, the hip hop world was tangling with the squabbling between Drake & Meek Mill, and Action Bronson put on blast by Ghostface Killah for breaking the unwritten hip hop commandment, when suddenly – BOOOOOOOOOM!!! Dr. Dre drops the bomb in his new soundtrack-album and the hip hop world has divided, they either love it or hate it.

This is Dr.Dre’s final project, so one of hip hop’s pioneers has to go out with a bang. After 16 years of trial and error, doubts creeping within his fans, Dr Dre ultimately shelved Detox. André Young is a perfectionist, and with that, gives himself high expectations which in effect has his fans in high expectations.

Inspired by the film ‘Straight Outta Compton’, the Doctor has crafted 16 tracks, with a plethora of legendary artists combined with the newest cats in the game.

1. Intro – Movie type entrance and brief but powerful tribute to Compton and past troubles.
2. Talk About It (feat. King Mez & Justus)

3/5. Not a favorite on the album but I can see why it opened the album due to its fast pacing, the hook is a bit of a throw off but Dre’s verse about still having that fire and motivation still was admirable.
3. Genocide (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius, Candice Pillay)

3.5/5. Much stronger track than the previous, unconventional sounding Dre beat but well suited to the artists on the track, Candice’s verse was only thing that dragged this song down, Kendrick’s feature was very strong as he rep’s Compton and his rise as an artist, this song shows the brutality and bleakness going on in Compton, I can see people enjoying this one slightly more than me.
4. It’s All on Me (feat. Justus & BJ the Chicago Kid)

4/5. The most down tempo song on the album, As Dre dives into his past for a minute and speaks on his first time meeting Snoop Dogg, Suge Knight and he speaks on when he wasn’t as rich as he is now, I really think if they used BJ The Chicago Kid more effectively and Nate Dogg was still here to jump on this one instead of JustUS, then this song could have pushed this one up more.
5. All in a Day’s Work (feat. Marsha Ambrosius & Anderson Paak)

4.5/5. The Anderson Paak might throw off a Hip-Hop head on first listen but for me he impresses highly on here and I can hear his passion, As Dre talks about how he was always about his grind and making history despite his surroundings and how that reality star fame ain’t for him and he references Jay Z “Can’t Knock The Hustle” as he knocks that hollywood fame cursing the game.
6. Darkside/Gone (feat. King Mez, Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius)

4/5. Solid track with a more down tempo side to it , this track is split in 2 parts from a different perspective, on “Darkside” King Mez speaks on still been stuck in the gangster lifestyle despite not been one, Dre And Kendrick come correct speaking on staying real and not letting change happen despite what people say or whatever controversy they bring. Marsha Ambrosius is great on the hook and I love the piano over the beat. Eazy-E also appears in the way of sampling and its nice touch.
7. Loose Cannons (feat. Xzibit & Cold 187um) 3.5/5.

This song is a little too chaotic for me but I still enjoy it on the whole, aggressive track with a lot of imagery on it, Xzibit comes correct with a standout verse. Eminem would have taken this track up a notch if he was on it, seemed fitting for his style.
8. Issues (feat. Anderson Paak & Ice Cube) 3.5/5.

The production was not really my style, Was nice to hear Cube again as he speaks on how you better respect his rep, Dre sounds great on here tho and has the strongest verse, Dem Jointz brings this track down with his modern and auto tune sounding hook, solid track besides a little flaws.

9. Deep Water (feat. Justus & Kendrick Lamar)

4.5/5. Oh man the production is beautiful here with the Jazzy horns, This one is another passionate shout to Compton but Dre speaks on his worries for the youth, the Environment and the peer pressures that come with it, Kendrick Lamar steals the show and takes this track to the next level with his best feature on the record, he takes some shots at Drake, then gets deep and emotive when he slips into some Characterization like he does on his previous work, really does create imagery while listening to the song.
10. One Shot One Kill (feat. Snoop Dogg & Jon Connor)

4/5. Great production on this song and tempo, Snoop Dogg is on his old school sound and sounds passionate and like he has some fire in his voice as he speaks on how he deserves his respect for what he’s done in the game and how he knows how to make records, Jon Connor steals the show with the hook and his rapid fire flow.
11. Just Another Day (Featuring The Game & Asia Bryant)

3.5/5. Probably one of the best beats on the whole project, very lavish and jazzy horns again, The Game shows a lot of technical skill rapping but there’s not really much lyrical content on this one and Asia Bryant comes in sounding a lot like Rihanna, The Game fans should feel happy with this one though and be more positive about “The Documentary 2”.
12. For the Love of Money (Jill Scott & Jon Connor & Anderson Paak)

4/5. They lean on a sample of the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony of the same name, Jill Scott is beautiful on the hook and its a welcome addition to the song, Jon Connor spits more of that passionate and fast paced rapping and Dre really shows his rapping skills on this with an equally as fast pace, the finale of the song with the strings add to the quality.
13. Satisfaction (feat. King Mez, Marsha Ambrosius, Snoop Dogg)

3.5/5. Just another smooth track with nothing too special going on lyrically, some comedic bars are thrown in as they speak on the topic of Money and how materialism isn’t always as good as it is made out to be.
14. Animals (feat. Anderson Paak)

5/5. My favorite track on the album, Very deep record as Anderson Paak gets emotive, as he speaks on his people been portrayed incorrectly in the media and treated like “Animals” by the Police, The hook is beautiful but emotive as Anderson says “The police don’t come around these parts they tell me that we all a bunch of animals, The only time they wanna turn the cameras on Is when we’re f***!n’ sh!t up”, DJ Premier comes in at the end with some scratches and fun rapping, this track is perfection.
15. Medicine Man (feat. Candice Pillay, Anderson Paak, Eminem)

4.25/5. Candice sounds a lot better with just the hook, Dre raps passionate and speaks on his frustrations of the way the world is at times and the behaviour of some people, Eminem steals the show with some shock lines and more of his old style shining through on the record, good feature for sure from him.
16. Talking to My Diary

4.5/5. Straight up Hip-Hop record right here and the most personal song on the record from Dre as the song title suggests. The production on this song is beautiful and the flow is smooth as hell, definitely the right song to end the project on.

EDITOR’S THOUGHTS

At time of publishing this, I haven’t heard the album as the stream is not available in every country in apple store. StraightOuttaComptonGathering from what I have heard on social media, a lot of people are disappointed with the record. I found this surprising as Dr Dre stated he wasn’t happy with creating Detox. Could it be that fans were hoping for another ‘Chronic’? The concept on this album is different to the previous two. The one similarity between this and 2001 at least, is that Dre brought in a formula of bringing back artists we know and love as contributors, while bringing in new artists on that will bring hip hop into the next few years. Fans also need to realise that this is a 50-year-old man who cannot talk about the same things he did in his NWA/Chronic days, nor can he re-create that same sound. If he did, it would sound contrived. Bottom line, the likes of Illmatic, 36 Chambers, Chronic etc will NEVER be re-created. Maybe when the film is released and sure-fire music videos come out, some of these tracks will make a lot more sense because sometimes visuals bring out the tracks a lot more. The album doesn’t really sound that bad, just that fans wanted that groundbreaking result.

Dr. Dre: THANK YOU. The Detox speculation is finally over, you are appreciated. But just because it’s his last project, doesn’t mean he’s hung up his production keyboards.

TALIB KWELI: PRISONER OF CONSCIOUS

Talib-Kweli-Prisoner-Of-ConsciousPRISONER: a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody; especially: one on trial or in prison.

CONSCIOUS: capable of or marked by thought, will, design or perception: relating to, being, or being part of consciousness <the conscious mind>

This is Talib Kweli’s dilemma. Such a credible artist and respected in the eyes of many, but they only see him as just a conscious rapper. After Black Star, Reflection Eternal, Quality, The Beautiful Struggle, Eardrum, Revolutions Per Minute and Gutter Rainbows, Kweli now wants to show a more diverse side, but still deliver that consistency that he has shown throughout, and in this album, he has succeeded…. and all without his #1 producer Hi-Tek. Is it a risky move I hear you ask? Well put it this way. Ghostface Killah has produced many albums without RZA production and look how well that turned out…

Violins and pianos kick off the album in epic fashion. Talib is preparing his ‘Human Mic’ check… great to hear that he is on top form ready to go, even paying homage to Slum Village at the end …“to take a child you gotta raise it up…raise it up…”

By the second track Kweli demands that this album be ‘Turnt Up’…. with a T!!! No shame in hearing an opera singer blasted out of your car stereo while cruising. Talib and producer Trend is those guys that can take a classic (Eric B & Rakim – Paid In Full) and bring it in to 2013 in glorious Technicolor.

‘Come Here’ featuring Miguel is officially the first single from the album, it’s not exactly true and I will explain why later. This has that blend of that mature grown sound combined with that relevant, current sound that can be played in all the clubs or in your home when you’re having a romantic moment with your half, and has that potential to be a timeless classic like Snoop Dogg & Pharrell‘s Beautiful.

Talib shifts gears swiftly and lives the ‘High Life’ with Rubix & Rajah. Producer Oh No gives the track a hint of a Tribal African twist and produces a feel good sound while letting the beat ride out. Here Talib has managed to change the flow of the album without making it sound out-of-place. Rubix and Kweli go tag team in a frantic pace in one of many stand out tracks.

Talib continues to switch lanes in ‘Ready, Set, Go’ featuring Melanie Fiona. His lyrical prowess hasn’t slowed since the album started: “The deviltalib kweli try to deny us the highest of elevation/They keep us at sea level so I’m staying on my A game/They local like C when I express like the A train/My A-alikes take what I write, use it to maintain/We be alike see alike cause we got the same brain…” Then he goes on to throw darts at the mainstream as he shows them how it’s done… “Rappers nowadays are confusing you/I know you tired of the usual like Trey Songs and Drake/That’s why I’m keeping the faith/Keeping the pace although it’s all about the winning it’s never about the race…” If Drake has any Common Sense left he won’t go against Talib… see what I did there???

If Jay-Z can have a Moment Of Clarity and wanted to be lyrically Talib Kweli, then in ‘Hold It Down’, Talib returns the favor. If he was ingredients for a soup, he would be a young Raekwon, a bit of KRS-ONE, some Q-Tip, some Rakim and a bit of Ice Cube…. Talib continues to slay the rappers who think they have it held down. Then he continues to ‘Push Thru’ with Kendrick Lamar & Curren$y, in the albums many collabs with new hungry MCs. This track was actually released as a single last year, and had heads ready for the album, and after a long wait, it is well worth it.

The album has many highlights, but ‘Hamster Wheel’ might be the crowning jewel. Talib tells a story of a woman who broke up with a dude and barely escaped with her life, then finds herself involved with a guy who she thought she could confide in, but her paranoia and insecurities lead to her being put out in the streets. The heartfelt flow continues into ‘Delicate Flowers’, where Kweli speaks on women’s feelings and how men need to be careful where they walk on the minefield.

Going from smooth, heartfelt sounds to the Wu-Tang sound, Talib & Busta Rhymes spazz out on the RZA produced ‘Rocket Ships’, but’s it the ever  animated Busta who steals the show by cussing the woman for cooking pork in his house while the woman has no awareness to why pork is unacceptable in the 5%.

Talib has received flak by putting a returning Nelly on the track ‘Before He Walked’. Clearly these fans who were quick to call Kweli a ‘sell-out’ didn’t not grasp and understand the concept of the Prisoner Of Conscious. The result: a great track that is misunderstood. It is the next track ‘Upper Echelon’ that will raise heads eyebrows at first listen, but this is the sort of beat that lyrics are over looked by the casual fan. Lyrically it is amazing: “See I be listening to real sh!t/real spit/my die hards feel it/type of sh!t the fake n!**@$ find hard to deal with/I’m on a higher plane I’m destroying it while I’m building/my threat can’t be contained/so my name on Obama kill list…” How many mainstream artists you know can come with complex word play like ‘incorrigible’ and ‘valedictorian’ on a beat like this??? As I thought, not many.

‘Favela Love’ is a sure-fire single/video waiting to happen. Talib takes it to Brazil with Seu Jorge, whose native vocals are so hypnotic it puts you in another zone. This would have been nice to end the album. But Kweli goes one better.. and ‘It Only Gets Better’ with Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius. The song tells the nieve that just because there is a black man in the White House does not mean that racism no longer exists.

The iTunes version has Ryan Leslie returning the favor hoping to make an ‘Outstanding’ track with Kweli for the ladies. While this is another achievement for the pair, it just falls short of the previous collab they did called ‘I’m Ready’, not taking away from this track of course. Then there is the amazing ‘Can’t Barely Breathe’. I have to criticise Talib for making this a bonus track and not on the physical copy but I understand.

Prisoner Of Conscious has just entered Talib Kweli into the Album Of the Year 2013 race. There are not many who can test Kweli’s complex lyrical wordplay, over tracks that keep him current, at the same time delivering fresh sounds, and real life stories. Even the physical copy has one of the best inlays that hip hop has seen in long while, from his name written in Arabic to the different definitions of the album’s title. This is a definite purchase in either physical or digital, anything less makes you a Prisoner of Ignorance.