Look, I don’t wanna get hung up on the most depressing event of 2016, and quite possibly the last decade. But in the days following the events that transpired on 11/9, I, like a lot of people I’m sure, had trouble finding a whole lot of joy in anything. Even music, the one anti-depressant that’s always been there for me, and has always been the thing that I’ve turned to when trying to make sense of life’s more unfathomable circumstances, wasn’t doing much for me. As I said on our latest Rokk Talk, really the only song I was in the mood to listen to was Stevie Wonder’s “Evil”, while pondering the unanswerable question, “evil, how have you engulfed so many hearts?”
So I can only think it was by some divine miracle that A Tribe Called Quest (of all groups) released the perfect antidote to these troubling times just two days later, and finally gave me a reason to believe in not just music’s power to heal, but also its power to call to arms. This is an album with timely sloganeering like “we got to get it together forever” and “All you black folks you must go./All you mexicans you must go./Muslims and gays. Boy, we hate your ways…” And that’s just on the first two tracks! What we get from there is a snapshot of black America in 2016 in the way that a lot of other great hip-hop/R&B albums have been this year, but also much more. With Tribe, you get a whole wide range of sounds and subject matter, while there’s this wonderful over-arching message of unity in the face of so much divisiveness.
Which, as I hinted at, is a little surprising coming from A Tribe Called Quest. Maybe that’s because I’d never dug too deep into their discography, and even though I’ve liked what few albums I’ve heard of theirs, I always kind of regarded them as “that rap group from the ’90s that white people really like”. But again, maybe that comes from their whole unity vibe, since this is clearly music entrenched in black issues, but also sees the bigger picture enough that it can appeal to anybody. I don’t know, I don’t feel like I’m enough of an authority on A Tribe Called Quest to talk about their importance or influence. I mean, I haven’t even seen that Michael Rappaport documentary. But what I can say is, I’m not sure I’ve heard many artists sound as vital 25+ years into their recording careers as Tribe do here, and considering this year’s passing of Phife Dawg has rendered We Got It From Here… the group’s swan song, it’s a hell of a note to go out on.
Favorite Tracks: “Solid Wall Of Sound”, “Dis Generation”, “Ego”