Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service [Epic, 2016]
As it was envisioned, this through-conceived meld of rhythm and voice, harmony and hook, ideas and feelings, life and death would have dawned upon us 11/9 as a collegial reminder in the spirit of its title: OK ma'am, the wolf has skulked away from the door, now let the people shape their destiny. Track one moans "The heat the heat the heat the heat" to signify climate change not law enforcement before it states its cross-racial political purposes with a forthright "It's time to go left and not right." And fundamentally, that was the idea. Of course the hour that ensues isn't uniformly ideological--this is music, their first in decades and their last ever, and music's impulses and necessities are their heart. But not their brain. With everybody home and Busta Rhymes moved into the guest room, the drama is all in reuniting seeker Q-Tip, whose long apprenticeship as a fusion musician finally yields some beats, and family man Phife Dog, who left this mortal plane in March but rhymes all the way to the final track. The album represents both their bond and the conscious black humanism they felt sure the nation was ready for: struggle yoked with work ethic, "forward movement" with "instinctual soul," "answer for cancer" with "learning is free," and damn right race-blind law enforcement. Hillary is a "woman with the wisdom who is leading the way," "The Donald"--Phife rhyming here, no later than March--all "Bloodclot you doing/Bullshit you spewing/As if the country ain't already ruined." The election didn't turn out like they figured. We know. But the music remains, 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. Its statement of principle didn't get the victory it foresaw. But it remains a triumph. A+