Artists of the week: A Tribe Called Quest
Before A Tribe Called Quest, the hip hop landscape could easily be divided into three camps: one for the party-clown rappers; another for the hardcore gangstas and, finally, one for active feminists. During the 90s, Q-Tip, the late Phife Dog, DJ Ali Shaheed and Jarobi helped to perfect with other Soulquarians (mostly Jungle Brothers and De La Soul) the formula for an alternative to these three camps. If lyrically, they introduced with humor and intelligence new contemporary themes (language, spirituality, music industry and small tribulations of everyday life); musically, they didn’t actually break new ground as much as they delve deep into their Afro-American musical roots, mixing a brand new palette of samples with jazzy beats thus turning hip hop an eloquent heir of this sublime heritage. Their influence can’t be understated: the footprint of the band can still be found in almost every single rap artist or band that choose sophistication, wit and elegance over stereotypes, clichés and gimmicks.
A Tribe Called Quest discography has always been pretty much stellar. Though fans and critics tend to pinpoint The Low End Theory (1991) and Midnite Marauders (1993), the truth is that the band never released anything that wasn’t filled with their brilliance and creativity: the eerie atmosphere and clean production of The Love Movement (1998), for instance, have been deeply appreciated by a new generation that wasn’t even born when they released their debut. Therefore, it’s pretty easy to review their comeback record We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 For Service: it simply fits the pattern of awesomeness of everything A Tribe Called Quest put on in the 90s with an extra-dose of emotion once we get to listen to all these guys (plus Busta Rhymes, Consequence and a bunch of others guests that include Andre 3000 and Kendrick Lamar) jamming and spiting some hot bars over dense and groovy beats. One has to wonder what else 2016 has left for us, awed music lovers.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.