Here’s another 2016 release I wanted to get snuck in under the wire, before the year ends…
First, some facts:
Fact: This is their first studio album in 18 years.
Fact: Phife Dawg appears here, though he died several months before the album dropped.
Fact: This record kicks ass.
Facts: Guest artists include (# of track appearances)…
Consequence (4). Busta Rhymes (4). Jack White (4). Elton John (1). André 3000 (1). Marsha Ambrosius and Abbey Smith (1). Talib Kweli (1). Kanye West (1). Anderson Paak (1). Kendrick Lamar (1). Katia Cadet (2). Also, “Lost Somebody” includes a sample from the song Halleluhwah by the German band Can.
OK, so we know all of this, and I already said it kicks ass. But is this just my automatic reaction because it’s been so long since their last record? Am I just saying this because I’m a fan and I’ll give thumbs to whatever they do next?
No, this record actually kicks a whole lot of ass. The grooves are huge. As ever, it’s jazzy and gorgeous. And the verses are stellar. Talk about flow! And sometimes the words come at you so fast…
It’s like no time has passed, in so many ways. Hearing this now, it just sounds like ATCQ, no one else ever could. The production is perfect, capturing that inimitably warm and clear sound…
When I listen to this, it just feels like everything is gonna be OK. Does that sound silly? All the fear and terror, the societal damage, the worry and unrest, the racism and sexism, the media manipulation, the utter absurdity of some things… it’ll all be OK. All we have to do is calm down and go forward together. That’s powerful, that a record can do this.
Brilliance. And I just know that the more I play it, the more I’m going to hear in it, the more I’m going to love it.
PS: For a real perspective, go read Marshall’s excellent piece at Free City Sounds.
PPS: The press agrees with me:
Christopher R. Weingarten of Rolling Stone believed that “in both delivery and content”, A Tribe Called Quest “maintain the attitude of the Bohemian everydude funkonauts that inspired Kanye West, Andre 3000 and Kendrick Lamar (who all appear here)”. Robert Christgau hailed it as a “triumph” in his review for Vice, writing that the record “represents both their bond and the conscious black humanism they felt sure the nation was ready for … urging us to love each other as much as we can as we achieve a happiness it’s our duty to reaccess if we’re to battle as all we can be.”