Just in time for Christmas, the Loose Joints Podcast is back with a look at the best of 2016. The podcast features Nialler9 and Sally Cinnamon talking to a guest about the music they love: old and new.
On this episode, singer and TV presenter May Kay joins us to talk about what floated our boats this year. We also talk about Fight Like Apes, MayKay’s band who just played their last ever show last week along with her experiences at presenting Other Voices.
An old band comes together for a final statement after years of fighting and estrangement of its two most vocal members. It’s an age-old story that happened to A Tribe Called Quest in the 18 years since they released their fifth album The Love Movement.
As bitterly captured in the documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg stopped speaking to each other. Despite occasional reunion shows, there was a rift, that took until a performance on The Tonight Show in 2015 to heal.
Reinvigorated once more, Phife, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White started making music again in Tip’s New Jersey home studio. During recording, Phife Dawg passed away. The rest of the group decided to finish it in his honour, as most of his parts were done.
So A Tribe Called Quest’s final album We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is a result by any stretch, serving as a tribute, a full-stop, the end of a circle. What’s surprising about the album is how connected it is to Tribe’s best work.
When a band reforms, they often lose their youthful energy and spark but it never left Tribe. Here’s a rap group who sound as fresh and individual as they did the first time round – nostalgia doesn’t come into it. Q-Tip sounds 23 years of age, not double that. Jarobi raps more than he ever has since their debut People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Phife reaffirms his legacy as an MC.
Arriving the same week as Trump was elected to the US Presidency, We Got It From Here. is timely too with references to his upsetting rhetoric. Lead single ‘We The People’ addresses that head on the chorus “all you Black folks, you must go / All you Mexicans, you must go.” There’s a song called ‘The Donald’ and the opening track is about how black people can expect to go nowhere as we dream of Mars.
As is Tribe’s custom though, there’s a sense of playfulness and unity throughout. Old friends and cousins Busta Rhymes and Consequence add extra energy, Elton John’s ‘Benny And The Jets’ sample works wonders on ‘Solid Wall Of Sound’, man of the moment Anderson .Paak does his crooning R&B thing, Andre 3000 reminds us why we need more of him rapping on ‘Kids’ and Jack White, Kanye and Kendrick Lamar also pop in.
Musically, it’s as if a stockpile of Tribe songs were just waiting for the group to get it together. ‘Dis Generation’ has fire, ‘Melatonin’ recalls Tip’s solo album Kamaal The Abstract, ‘Enough’ is a smooth song with a callback sample to ‘Bonita Applebum’ and ‘Black Spasmodic’ has that essential album posse swing.
They all contribute, none of them swarm the cuts with their presence. The jazz samples, the interplay, the beat drops, the synergy between Phife and Tip is magically still there from the moment those keys come in the first song. Real masters of ceremonies have had years of practice and it’s heartening to hear they never lost the gift of craft, despite time and distance. They leave a heightened legacy and hope for the future.
We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service’s tracklist:
1. The Space Program
2. We The People….
3. Whateva Will Be
4. Solid Wall of Sound (feat. Busta Rhymes)
5. Dis Generation (feat. Busta Rhymes)
6. Kids… (feat. Andre 3000)
1. Mobius (feat. Consequence & Busta Rhymes)
2. Black Spasmodic
3. The Killing Season (feat. Kanye West & Talib Kweli)
4. Lost Somebody
5. Movin’ Backwards (feat. Anderson .Paak)
6. Conrad Tokyo (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
8. The Donald
It’s a fine album, a fitting tribute to Phife Dawg and an album that holds its head up proud in the discography.
On Saturday night, the remaining trio appeared on Saturday Night Live to perform ‘We The People’ and ‘The Space Program’ where they were joined by old friends Consequence and Busta Rhymes. Watch ‘We The People’ above. A not great version of the latter is here.
Here’s Dave Chappelle’s monologue in his comeback to TV hosting the show:
2016 takes another one. A Tribe Called Quest rapper Phife Dawg has passed away at the age of 45. Cause of death is unconfirmed but Malik Taylor aka Phife Dawg had Type 1 diabetes and ill health over the last number of years that included to a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008.
Malik Taylor was part of the seminal ’90s rap group A Tribe Called Quest along with Q-Tip, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. The New York group released five albums from 1990 to 1998, most notably the 1991’s Low End Theory and 1993’s Midnight Marauders.
Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s relationship became turbulent and the group broke up and reunited a few times over the years. Much of that turbulence was documented in the 2011 film Beats, Rhymes & Life.
Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders remain two of my favourite rap albums.
Phife was one of my favourite rappers too. His hyperactive high-pitched flow was a perfect foil to Q-Tip’s smoother laidback delivery. Their juxtaposition made A Tribe Called Quest so important, so magnetic. I was introduced to Tribe through the Beastie Boys album Ill Communication, which Q-Tip featured on. The interplay between the two meant that they were/are my go-to pure rap group. Rest in peace Phife Dawg.
Tip rocked the house at The Button Factory a few weeks ago. If you’re digging this or Q-Tip and Tribe in general, definitely get the Q-Tip approved free download mixtape J.Period Presents… The Best of Q-Tip, a mammoth 49-track retrospective done right with new rhymes and versions of loadsa Abstract-related classics. The mixtape also features the same woman’s voice from the Midnight Marauders intros. Limited time only so get it.
Check out ‘Excursions’ as retold by De La Soul and ‘Buggin’ Out’ redone by Consequence and Kid Cudi.
HOW good was Q-Tip last night? A masterful live band performance in The Button Factory. A lot of people have been waiting a lot of time to see him make his debut in Ireland. The Renaissance is so good I didn’t think about him playing Tribe songs but that he did – ‘Check The Rhime’, ‘Scenario’, ‘Find A Way’, ‘Award Tour’, ‘Sugga Nigga’, ‘Electric Relaxation’ – all present and correct. Check out Dolan’s photos in the more and thanks to Phil for the ticket.