A Tribe Called Quest’s We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service comes 18 years after their last release, a couple days after a harrowing presidential election, and eight months after the devastating loss of Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor, the beloved soul of the hip hop quartet. In the midst of madness, Tribe returned to gift us with the soundtrack to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off with.

We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service is the group’s sixth and, according to Q-Tip, final album. He and Phife are joined by the rest of the original crew, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (although Muhammad isn’t actually listed in the credits), for a project that doesn’t feel like ‘90s Tribe, but doesn’t quite feel like 2016 either. They’ve departed from a consistent anchoring break beat and built on their revolutionary jazz samples; they’re here to remind us that we’ve moved beyond the boom bap but haven’t quite abandoned it. While we might feel a hell of a lot of nostalgia in this album, we aren’t hearing it—we’re hearing growth, hope, and an embrace of hip hop’s advancement that’s still very attached to its past.

Much of this embrace has to do with the chemistry of the quartet returning to consistency similar to what it was in the Low End Theory era: the brothers are back together and so is that playful, feel-good Afrocentric musicality that stacked them along the greatest of all time. Heartbreakingly, the mending of a once tumultuous Phife and Tip relationship is at the core of this chemistry—a process that Q-Tip has said was of more concern to Phife than the album itself. A Tribe Called Quest have always been innovators, so when that chemistry was reconstructed there was no need for reliance on trends or musicals fads (e.g. “mumble rap”) in order for this project to be successful—they just had to be themselves, which meant being revolutionary.


Speaking of revolution, the album is unabashedly political. It hits us in the face from the first track, “The Space Program,” where Q-Tip rapidly offers: “Imagine for one second all my people of color, please / Imagine for one second all the people in poverty / No matter the skin tone, culture or time zone / Think the ones who got it would even think to throw you a bone?” It continues in a heavy evaluation of gentrification and overall displacement on “We the People….,”  complete with a carnal nod to gender equality from Phife: “We got your missy smitten rubbing on her little kitten / Dreaming of a world that’s equal for women with no division.” While more seldom, Tribe brought discussion of sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia into this album in a way that hip hop still struggles with.

With that in mind, it can’t be stressed enough how impeccable the timing of this album is. In the dawn of a presidency formed on an incessantly marginalizing rhetoric, We got it from Here sets the tone for a predicted uprising in politically charged hip hop—and hopefully one with a more inclusive approach. The album also functions as somewhat of a “pass of the torch”; on “Dis Generation” Q-Tip shouts out today’s finest: “Talk to Joey, Earl, Kendrick, and Cole, gatekeepers of flow / They are extensions of instinctual soul” shortly before a K.Dot appears on “Conrad Tokyo” for a short and shooting feature.


The album is still carried on the backs of the old heads, though: frequent appearances by Busta Rhymes and Consequence—longtime ATCQ collaborators whom Q-Tip refers to as “tribesmen”—attempt to fill the void of an inevitably missed Phife. The ingenious mid-verse tradeoffs between them, along with Phife’s high-pitched, playful ying to Q-Tip’s milky, mellow yang and the tasteful dribbles of Jamaican patois throughout are a few of the many treats on this album. Among them are the features of Talib Kweli, Andre 3000, and even Kanye, alongside ventures with legends beyond hip hop, such as Jack White and Elton John. White rips a guitar solo after a hauntingly abrupt pause in “Love Somebody,” the most obvious, but surely not the only, tribute to Phife on the album.

Another of them doubles as a subtle “fuck you” to our president-elect: “The Donald” swiftly reassigns Trump’s nickname to Phife; it’s an extension of “Don Juice,” a lesser known alias for the MC. While there’s no mention of Trump on the track, that’s likely the point—Don Juice is “the Donald” Tribe chooses to recognize, and it’s likely many listeners will follow that footwork. While Phife was immortalized through Tribe’s music a long time ago, this song as the last track on the album works as a chilling, powerful send-off. It’s most appropriate that the final words of their final album are “Phife Dawg.”


Music is healing. And as the less-than-pleasant year of 2016 comes to a close, some sonic medicine is needed. Bar by bar and beat by beat, We got it from Here… Thank You For Your service feeds us spoonfuls of that social, political, and personal healing. While it’s easy to love, it’s also just what we need—so thank you, A Tribe Called Quest, for your service.