Thank You 4 Your Service: A Conversation With A Tribe Called Quest And Friends
A Tribe Called Quest entertains and intrigues in intimate New York interview.
Walking into New York City’s historic Webster Hall to see famed hip-hop journalist Elliott Wilson’s latest CRWN interview series installment with A Tribe Called Quest, which took place on November 18, 2016, the audience’s energy and enthusiasm is not only perceptible but wholly contagious. While Wilson is no stranger to big names, having interviewed the likes of Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, Nicki Minaj, and more for CRWN, the historic and timely nature of this particular interview feels particularly apparent.
As excited fans file in, filling seats below the venue’s famed star-framed disco ball or otherwise jammed behind those fortunate enough to get seats, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service – Tribe’s brand new, surprise-released sixth album – plays over the speakers, punctuating the electric chatter born of eager anticipation between longtime fans who never imagined they’d see the legendary group reunite.
Of the 150 attendees lucky enough to be invited to the event courtesy of TIDAL, all those present in the packed house seem to recognize the significance of the moment – not only of the conversation yet to come but also of what A Tribe Called Quest has achieved to get here. After all, few actions in the world of music are so simultaneously exciting, or as risky, as The Comeback.
At best, an artist or act successfully adapts and reacts in a nuanced and deliberate manner to the changing times while managing still to honor those signature characteristics for which said artist or act first earned notoriety. At worst, we get something tone-deaf, overblown, underwhelming and, perhaps most damningly, unnecessary. The Comeback can reignite the cultural relevance of one’s back catalog, electrify old fans and win over newcomers but, with public expectation often unrealistically exacerbated by memories of what once was, the stakes are particularly high and subpar offerings are readily met with bitter disdain and heightened criticism. This goes double, triple even, for an iconic act like A Tribe Called Quest.
18 years after the release of their last record, 1998’s The Love Movement, Tribe unexpectedly materialized back on the scene with We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, a thoughtful, relevant and tremendously rewarding return to form from these rightly celebrated hip-hop pioneers. An enormous success both critically and commercially, the chart-topping, jaw-dropping double album presciently taps into the spirit of the present moment, regularly touching on the confounding political climate, American society’s deep-seated racism and more with ingenious clarity and a mature, matter-of-fact wisdom that has always made their music stand out. Though the record in question was secretly recorded just before the tragic, sudden passing of founding member Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor earlier this year, We got it from Here’s acclaim and success derive not from pity or nostalgia but instead – as is true also of both the late David Bowie’s Blackstar and the late Leonard Cohen’s Leaving The Table – from undeniable, uncompromising greatness.
In this light and given the troubling recent outcome of the presidential election, Elliott Wilson’s TIDAL-partnered interview with original Tribe members Q-Tip and Jarobi White was exactly what we needed. Joined by key collaborators Busta Rhymes and Consequence (who also brought his adorable son), both of whom contributed heavily to the album in question, the event proved as informative and enjoyable as it was intimate, complete with heartfelt accounts of Phife Dawg and of years passed, lively banter on the election and disco, in addition to some truly hysterical character impressions courtesy of Q-Tip. It’s not everyday that living legends expound upon their experiences with such candor, humility and grace.
For those of us who had the benefit of being there last Friday night one thing proves entirely clear: this is what a successful Comeback looks like. Fortunately for those who missed the engaging event in real time, the invigorating interview can be watched in full exclusively on TIDAL.
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