Check the Vibe: My Review of the New ATCQ Album

I am a HUGE A Tribe Called Quest fan so you already know that I was one of the first to buy/download it in the wee hours of the day of release.  Titled “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service”, this album is their latest and final album (after the previous final album) that fans have been waiting on for YEARS.  When I heard Andre 3000 say during Phife Dawg’s (RIP) memorial that Outkast and ATCQ were discussing a possible collabo (which would have been the greatest thing in hip-hop EVER), I instantly thought that this would be it or something just as epic.

I’ll say this…overall, I am not disappointed.  After such a tremendously long (and politically historic??) week, downloading this album was soooo anticipated.  I can’t wait to see my physical copy that will be mailed to me in a couple of weeks.

Being a long-time ATCQ fan, I will be honest and say that I expected something different.  Perhaps, it is my fault to set my expectations the way I did.  After making me (I mean all of us) wait 18 years for an album (hehe), I wanted to hit play and be instantly transported to a happier time when lyrics were the core of a hip hop song and beats mesmerized you so much that time passes you by as you mentally float through house parties, the NY streets, and outer space before realizing that the sun has gone down already.  I’m not saying that it didn’t happen, but…ummm…I’ll just share some of my thoughts below.

1. It was soooo great to hear Phife Dawg’s voice again!  Many of us were stunned and hurt by his death, so it was exciting to hear occasional verses and chorus lines featuring the legendary Five Foot Assassin.

2. It was great to hear lyrics and contributions from some of the original extended family of ATCQ.  I was stoked to hear lyrics from Jarobi again.  It was cool to hear Busta Rhymes and Consequence spit a lil bit on certain tracks.  It gave me a nostalgic feeling and reminded me of the history and evolution of ATCQ.

3. I was excited to hear other ATCQ-influenced greats grace the album.  A lot of rappers and musical groups have been influenced by the greatest hip-hop group of all time.  Plenty have paid homage to ATCQ, and only a few were fortunate to be featured on this album.  Andre 3000, Anderson Paak, and Kanye West all gave decent features on a few of the songs.  (I honestly wanted more from Andre 3000.  I mean, Q-Tip and Andre on the same song should have been like tasting the sweetness of the color blue while seeing the sound waves of realness…or some abstract shit like that.)

4. I wanted more wordplay and fun lyrics that I have always loved from ATCQ.  Artists grow and change.  I will never hate on that, but the storytelling and fun wordplay is what made ATCQ what they were…to me.  Phife was a large part of that loved back-and-forth flow that we are used to back in the day, and it is obvious that he is no longer with us to be the yang to Q-Tip’s ying.  Don’t get me wrong…the overall lyrical prowess was definitely there, but other elements like…

4. …conscious themes and abstract innuendos that dominated the album.  ATCQ always had a conscious side that I loved and is much needed in the world of wack lyrics, social injustices, and mumble rap.  Some tracks were apparently motivational and thought-provoking.  If you listened carefully, you could catch glimpses and references to some of the madness going on today…and I appreciate that.

5. The album just felt good.  This album is not one that you will listen to as you stretch before a five-mile run or to get you hyped up as you drive to the club.  It is the type of album that you unwind to as you drive home in horrendous traffic.  It is the mellow type of album that you listen to as you finish up a report or type a blog post.  This is one of those puff-on-a-hookah-while-sipping-Crown-Vanilla type of albums.  I can dig it!

6. That album artwork though.  Huh?  Ummmm…next!

7. It is so obvious that Q-Tip produced this album (or largely produced it).  Q-Tip is one of my favorite rappers of all time, and he is known to be very abstract and different sometimes (hence his name being “Q-Tip the Abstract”).  It was sooo obvious that Q-Tip’s heavy hand and abstract vibe were all through this.  Some of the song transitions or intra-song changes came across as extra and unfitting like trying to finish a puzzle with a piece from another box.  Overall, it sounded like a “Vol. II” to one of his solo albums that featured the other members of ATCQ and a few featured artists.

Despite my criticisms, I do not regret buying this album.  It was great to hear from the “Greatest” one more time.  The production was solid and gave us a genuine sound of the group that we have loved for so long.  It wasn’t an attempt of a legendary group to play themselves trying to adapt to ‘what’s hot in the streets now’.  My favorite songs are:  1) Enough!!, 2) Dis Generation, and 3) Melatonin.

I miss Phife, but I can now go on saying that I heard his voice one more time and that the empty, hurt feeling after watching the ending of “Beats, Rhymes & Life:  The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest” has passed.  I recommend this for any fan of ATCQ…period.  I would give it a solid 4 out of 5 rating.

Buy it today!!!

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