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People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

Tribe Called Quest

1990

Their debut album is lighter, looser, and more fun than anything that followed it, and just might be my favorite from the Tribe if it weren't for the fairly weak last 3rd of the album.  From the beginning thru "Can I Kick It" is all pretty fantastic.

8.3

The Low End Theory

Tribe Called Quest

1991

Deeper grooves, more standing bass, maybe a little jazzier, but less fun and spontaneous than PITAPOR.  A little bit more of an aggro-vibe, but still subdued compared to most hip-hop.  There's less filler overall, but aside from the two awesome opening tracks, the high points are modest at best the rest of the way out.  A lot of hip-hop albums have a few hits and a lot of filler, but this one is just smooth (like Butter) from start to finish.

8.3

Midnight Marauders

Tribe Called Quest

1993

This one is borderline hype at times, but not really in a bad way.  Probably has the best set of songs overall…bigger beats, bigger hooks.  Probably the most consistently good TCQ album from start to finish.  Most people think this is their best…I honestly can't decide, I just know it's another solid offering from TCQ.

8.3

We Got It from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service

 

Tribe Called Quest

2016

I’ve always been a pretty casual fan of Tribe Called Quest, mainly because the vast majority of the rap/hip-hop I grew up listening to was of the west-coast/aggressive/nihilistic variety.  But ever since I moved to Chicago, I’ve gradually gotten more into east-coast rap over time.  Listening to Doggystyle or All Eyez On Me on the “L” when it’s cold outside just doesn’t feel quite as right as listening to The Low End Theory or Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).  Unless you’re at the beach in the summertime, Chicago obviously has a much more east-coast vibe about it than west coast, so I suppose it’s only natural that my tastes have evolved in that respect.  I’ve also gotten older, and in the process have developed more of an appreciation for the intellectual flavor and the generally chilled-out, jazzy vibes that have always been an integral part of TCQ’s appeal. 

So when it was announced they were releasing their first album in 18 years, I was naturally interested, but can’t say I was expecting anything as good as “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” has turned out to be.  This is probably the best rap album I have heard in years.  Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of the genre anymore, and haven’t exactly been paying a lot of attention, but I was really impressed how smoothly this album goes down.  Sure, there’s a few filler tracks, but the majority of the songs here are delivered in a decidedly old-school fashion (which means they actually have rhythm and beats you can bob your head to).  And I’m not just talking about that classic “background chill-out” vibe that characterizes a lot of TCQ’s music, but many of these songs actually warrant you turning up the stereo (or you know, your android/computer or what have you).  Case in point is the standout track “We The People” which not only features some righteously topical and sardonic lyrics, but also happens to have a pretty powerful beat and a near perfect flow from Q-Tip and company.  A wickedly emphatically smooth track.  It slays.

And while “We The People” is definitely the standout track here, there are a number of other highlights to be found on the album, like the futuristically soulful “Whateva Will Be”, “Kids” (which features Andre 3000!), the spacey “Melatonin”, and “Conrad Tokyo” (which features Kendrick Lamar).  There are actually loads of guest appearances on this album, most notably Andre 3000 and Kanye West (meh), and the usual suspects like Busta Rhymes and Talib Kweli, as well as the not-so-usual suspects like Jack White (who adds some quality guitar licks here and there) and Elton John (well, EJ is sampled in there but still).  This helps add a nice variety to the album and keeps the listener on their toes throughout.  I particularly enjoy when Tribe gets a little experimental with their sound, which is most notable on the last quarter of the album.  Some songs get a little spacy and trippy, which again just adds to We Got it From Here’s personality.

Overall, TCQ does a good job of delivering the type of old-school beats, jazzy flow, and head-bobbing rhythms that have always been essential to their sound, but they also do a nice job of tastefully incorporating some new-school flavor into the mix as well.  Basically it all meshes together really well, and as a result We Got It From Here manages to sound fresh and engaging for the duration of it’s one hour running time. 

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of We Got It From Here is how effortless it all sounds.  My main complaint with new-school hip-hop is how often cluttered, overly ambitious, anti-funky, arrhythmic, and occasionally pretentious and embarrassingly poppy it all sounds.  We Got It From Here is just cool and it sounds natural.  It also happens to be good too, so that helps.

It’s nice to have a Tribe Called Quest back on the scene after an 18 year absence.  Personally, I’ve been semi-checked-out of rap/hip-hop for about the past 18 years myself, so in a sense it’s fitting that this is the album that piqued my interest once again.  Cheers to that, and cheers to one of the greatest groups in hip-hop history going out on a high note in 2016.

8.4

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