The whole “I was born in the wrong generation” movement is cringe-worthy and its the mindset I had when I was ten. However, it’s good to have an appreciation for the music we’ve had for decades now. It’s true that in order to understand modern rap (excluding mumble rappers because they’re more entertainers), we have to listen to the classics. A Tribe Call Called Quest is one of these musical acts. We all grew up with their tunes like “Scenario,” “Can I Kick It?,” “Bonita Applebum” and “Jazz(We Got).” This 90’s rap group is known for the flow of their verses as they move effortlessly from line to line. Each member (Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White) brought something unique to the table. They all had different personalities, reflected through their voices and delivery of the lyrics.
Their sixth and final album, “We got it from Here… Thank you 4 Your service,” was released after the death of one of their members, Phife Dog. The group isn’t new to sharing their opinions about things, but this album takes a different route as it is meant as a political statement and a criticism of our government.
Undeniably, “We The People” is why this album is so legendary. It highlights all the bad things that are happening in our society, mainly those boiling down to politics. I really liked how the song title is the first three words of our constitution, which goes to show what it’s going to be about.
There are so many details that you think are minor but actually, hold significance. The police sirens that blare throughout the song represents the Black Lives Matter movement. Also, A Tribe Called Quest members rap into a blowhorn, which makes it clear that they’re calling for the public’s attention to do something about our political disparities.
The lyrics are powerful and can be heard as a reference to a protest. You have lyrics like, “All you Mexicans, you must go,” which eludes to some of the things Donald Trump has said about immigration. The lyric that stood out to me the most was “VH1 has a show that you can waste your time with, guilty pleasures take the edge off reality.” It serves as a criticism of the media and also a criticism of black people from another black person who has been enlightened. I don’t know if this was specifically geared towards African Americans, but there’s a stereotype that black people are too concerned with television to care about politics. That’s the reason why my parents didn’t allow me to watch BET as a child.
Despite its forward and demanding message, I don’t think the song wasn’t meant as an encouragement for people to create absolute anarchy. It’s more of a suggestion for people to question the government and their own morals. The subject matter is a little disrupting, but it’s still an enjoyable song due to the beat and its arching background melody.
Another song I enjoy is “Solid Walls of Sound. I usually hate when artists sample classic rock songs. In the case of “Solid Walls of Sound,” that can slide for a second. A Tribe Called Quest does a pretty good job of integrating Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets” to make it flow almost perfectly with the rhythm even though the repetition of the lyrics “solid walls of sound” can be overbearing at times(it’s repeated more than 20 times). The piano notes of “Marscape” by Lancaster and Lumley are deconstructed and placed in the background of the verses. It’s really interesting to see how rap artists are able to incorporate multiple samples from different artists in their songs. The conversation of unoriginality comes into play, but I feel like all music is built on one another so who cares?
But there are a couple of things that I don’t like about this song. First, sometimes you can’t make out what the rapper is saying because they’re rapping too fast. Also, I will admit even though I love the incorporation of the Elton John song, the transition isn’t smooth when it comes in for a second time after the verses.
You have some other good contenders on the album as well. I appreciate the reggae beat in “Black Spasmodic,” which a salute to the late Phife. “Dis Generation” is a shout out to the new rap artists and a means of passing the baton to artists like Joey Bada$$ and Earl Sweatshirt. “The Donald” closes out the album, and we all know who that’s about.
We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service came out during a time when our country was divided politically. People wanted to move to Canada, and California wanted to secede from the United States. It encompasses the feelings of lividness, disconnection from society, and, overall fear of the future. Sadly, I don’t think anyone knows concretely what fate has for modern rap. You have rulers of the industry like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Kanye West who leading the game right now. However, you also have “influencers” like Jake Paul, Bad Bhabie and that stupid Backpack Kid who are trying to take a stab at a rap career. Their efforts just translate to “Hey! This seems easy and I could probably do it too”, which fails to acknowledge that there’s actual artistry that goes into it. We need more albums like “We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service” so our generation is remembered for producing something good.