A Tribe Called Quest just dropped their first album in 18 years, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Released mere days after the Great Debacle of 2016, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service is remarkably, if not thrillingly present tense. Wholly animate in both sound and vision, it is a record that is also uniquely relevant — as much for being in essential response to the angst and rancor of the day as it is for inspiring, as good art tends to do, a requisite spark that might yet ignite conscientious action in the days and months ahead.
Theirs, with this exceptional release, is the resounding shot of this new cycle, and it is one which heralds little quarter. Straight-in they reject a presidential promise that unblushingly assures “all you Black folks, you must go / all you Mexicans, you must go / all you poor folks, you must go / Muslims and gays…” The vitriol, borne high on foul national sentiments, amounts to a kind-of maniacal voodoo, to use their image, and they counter the venom with their own dream serum of living in a world inclusive of all, one without division “no matter the skin tone, culture or time zone.” We are long on a grim horizon from there, but in the storm that is surely in approach, “young leaders will rise / in the eyes of despair and adversity.”
Whatever Will Be
The record is not short on manifesto, nor does it aim to be subtle. Rather, it alarms against a “mass un-blackening” across a land where justice for many is fantasy, where the high crime of skin is “having melanin,” where “feds coming out with riot gear / everybody’s hands in the air,” and “cops killing niggas everywhere.” The gaze here ultimately levels on all who are “cool with the fuckery / Trump and the SNL hilarity / troublesome times, kid, no times for comedy.”
The band’s soaring response is a call to Art, as in we must turn to it, embrace it, create it if we are to move forward by any accountable measure, while at the same time they give equal nod to the fair trade of revolt and an Art of War, and on that front they encourage a mass soldiering up in response to what is here termed “The Killing Season,” with that season’s inadmissible writ being the mandate for a national cleansing, where the perceived Other must invariably and interminably go, either through deportation or being permissibly gunned down.
This isn’t to say the record refuses to be playful, even fun. It is emphatically both. It is also an album that is entirely joyful, with these latter sentiments riding buoyantly on the album’s lilting, irrepressible soundscapes. And it is these very contradictions — dark-matter complexities whirling amid exuberance and high-water song — that make We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service this year’s best, if not a masterwork for our tangled moment.