On November 11th, 2016, hip-hop legends, “A Tribe Called Quest” released their sixth and final album, “We Got it from Here… Thank you 4 Your Service”. The group, formed in 1985, was originally composed of MC and producer Q-Tip (Kamaal Ibn John Fareed,) MC Phife Dawg (Malik Izaak Taylor,) DJ and producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and MC Jarobi White. All four members of the group came together after an 18-year hiatus to complete the album.
Unfortunately, turmoil between group members Q-Tip and Phife Dawg led to an extended period of silence. It was in November of 2015 when the group performed on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in celebration of the 25th anniversary of its debut album, “People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm”, that Q-Tip finally said “it felt right.” It was the group’s first television appearance in 15 years. (1)
Phife Dawg had been suffering from diabetes for many years, and he spent his last days working on the album. While Phife had long pursued a group reunion, other group members suspected that the many months of traveling between his home in Oakland and Q-Tip’s home studio in New Jersey might have expedited his declining health. Phife Dawg passed away on March 22, 2016 at the age of 45. In an interview with The New York Times Jarobi White said, “Doing this album killed him. And he was very happy to go out like that.” Many of the songs, such as “Black Spasmodic”, and “The Donald” pay tribute to Phife Dawg.
The album is incredibly emotional as ATCQ mourn and celebrate their fellow group member Phife. It is also political and philosophical, typical to the rest of ATCQ’s work. There are many references to gentrification, mass incarceration, racial discrimination, Black Lives Matter, the 2016 US Presidential Election, global warming, problems in media, sexism, just to name a few running themes. “We The People…” is one of the most political songs on the album.
"All you Black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways
So all you bad folks, you must go"
The lyrics reference 2016 president elect Donald Trump’s history with racism. The title is in reference to the United States Constitution, which reads: “We the people of the United States of America…”
“We’re just lovely musicians and artists and that’s all we do, is speak and paint pictures and try to speak to a climate but hopefully we will call some sort of uprising internally in that young Jimmy Carter and that young Angela Davis. Hopefully we will, ‘cause that’s the type of thing we do. And that’s why 'We The People’ is more of an encompassing and not just us—it’s all of us as people.” Said Q-Tip in an interview with Beats 1 Radio (2)
The album was produced entirely by Q-Tip. He also played bass, drums, and keyboard throughout. Although the album is riddled with 90s hip-hop nostalgia, ATCQ included fresh influences from artists such a Jack White.
Other guests on the album include; Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Kanye West, Anderson .Paak, Talib Kweli, Consequence, and Busta Rhymes.
ATCQ are widely regarded as alternative hip-hip pioneers for their particular influences coming from jazz music, their honest and intelligent rhyming, and their unique use of sampling – techniques which reached far beyond anything in their time. Their albums “The Low End Theory” and “Midnight Marauders” are both described as being some of hip-hop’s greatest albums of all time. Along with their advanced musical techniques, ATCQ were also praised for their Afrocentrism and positive attitudes. They were a part of the Native Tongues movement with De La Soul, promoting fun and positive-minded lyrics in a time when a lot of hip-hop music had a harsher edge. (3)