A Tribe Called Quest — We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service ANALYSIS & REVIEW
This album was dominated by everything that was packed into each individual verse. For the most part, each line in every verse had unique rhythmic twists and great overall movement that energized the music. The pacing of each line was outstanding; it never felt too rushed or too sluggish. Great examples of this are the songs “The Space Program”, “Dis Generation”, “Movin Backwards”, and “Ego”. Every tempo decision was justifiable within each context.
In songs that had true verse-chorus forms, the chorus didn’t necessarily have the same hook or interest that the verses did. The main job for a chorus is to provide that hook which can define a piece, but that’s not how it was used. In songs like “We The People…”, “Whateva Will Be”, and “Enough!!”, all the chorus did was repeat a few words over and over without taking anything the music was giving it. In the end, the wonderful intrigue of the verses definitely made up for the duller spots in-between.
The only downfall to having all of the unique verses from different musicians is that a sense of cohesion is lost. It’s nice when a piece of music can be experienced as one solid entity, but at times the music in this album seemed to be just a chronology of many small parts that never really fused. Seeing as the small parts themselves were almost always engaging, this didn’t hurt the album too much. I loved how much attention the melody got overall. It was always fully present and never gave way to other musical ideas, which worked to their advantage. A Tribe Called Quest knew that their melodies had to drive this album in order for it to be a success, and they executed it well.
There were two consistently great features of the harmony on this album: the prominence of a cool bass line and pleasing idiosyncratic chord progressions. Almost every song had either one or the other. The underlying harmony did well to provide an unexpected spark of creativity into the music that would normally seem unfitting. The song “Enough!!” had the brightest sparks of creative harmony, with ”Dis Generation”, “The Killing Season” and “Movin Backwards” not too far behind.
While the harmonies were mostly interesting, they were also very isolated. They didn’t play a huge role in what was going on in the forefront of the music, which meant there was a limit as to how successful the songs could be. The harmonies may have been a little too odd at times to provide a cohesive structure, like in “Melatonin” and “Mobius”. Again, the listener feels a bunch of separate parts instead of one inclusive work. Also, as unique as the harmony was, it sometimes became too static and uninspiring. Sure, this happened when the listener’s attention is supposed to be on the melodic verse, but I would’ve liked to hear each musical element working together toward a common goal and not taking time off when they aren’t important.
Still, the subtlety of the harmonies worked mostly well due to their extravagant nature, and those listening hard enough will feel their spark.
Even though A Tribe Called Quest kept the timbre small and subtle, it did not diminish the power it had over the music. They took a rather conservative road with their additions to the base rhythmic sound, but everything that was added ended up being useful and interesting. This included a mix of acoustic and electric instruments, which did much more supporting than clashing. The piano was used especially well in “Lost Somebody” and “Conrad Tokyo”, while the electric keyboard/synthesizer was a better decision based on the desired mood in “We The People…”, “Melatonin”, and “The Donald”.
What we have in We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service are 16 distinct songs that may not sound together but always sound fresh and interesting. The thing brings the music together as one work is the lyrics. The timbre correctly put the spoken verses at the head of the sound so that they could be perceived as the most important feature. The words are poetic, meaningful, and hit you hard. They form a great narrative about the experiences of the black minority in America, and their messages are delivered clearly and effectively. It’s easy for a musician to write about his or her own experiences, but it takes some ingenuity to deliver it in a consistently fresh way. This album was truly a success because of the lyrical masterpiece found almost everywhere.
It’s been 18 years since A Tribe Called Quest released their last album, and that alone will make this particular album important within the public’s eye. This interesting timing, along with the very topical themes, is sure to make headlines for a while. Perhaps no one outside of the established hip-hop circle (which is quite large anyways) or music nerds will actually give it a listen, but those who do will be inspired. Factoring in the creative musicality of this work, I suspect that this album will be a chart-topper for a while and be talked about for much longer than that. We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service was a true gift that we needed more than them. Rest In Peace, Phife Dawg.