Albums of the year – November 2016
If you’ve been looking through our 2016 album highlights, you may have noticed a distinct lack of hip hop. That’s not to say there haven’t been strong contenders; Common, Kendrick Lemar and Chance The Rapper all fared well. But we had to wait until November before we got the Hip Hop album of the year.
Arriving on the scene back in 1990, New York’s finest A Tribe Called Quest waved the flag for East Coast rap. They supplied the decade with a soundtrack of classics (Bonita Applebum, Can I Kick It, Stressed Out) but parted before the millennium due to differences between its two fundamental members, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. It took nearly six years for them to reunite, and a further ten before work started on this final output.
Yet the drama was far from over. Complications involving a long-term struggle with diabetes resulted in Phife’s death before the album was completed.
Although the remaining members were unsure on whether to continue, they knew shelving the material would have been a discredit to their late friend. We’ve Got it from Here… contained enough of their trademark warm sound, yet was full of fresh ideas to ensure it didn’t need to rely on nostalgic ears.
‘They are certainly not showing any signs that they are slowing’ screamed its opening track, The Space Programme. And it wasn’t wrong. We The People and Dis Generation offered a newfound rawness, Solid Wall of Sound and Melatonin balanced cartoon-style rap with authentic melodies, and Lost Somebody was a noble tribute to Phife without being syrupy.
We’ve Got It From Here… was also a political beast. Addressing gentrification (‘All you Mexicans, you must go!’) and fears on segregation (‘They planning for our future, none of our people involved’), it certainly felt like the year’s most timely release. Unleashed 48 hours after Trump’s electoral victory, there appeared to be a readymade audience waiting for something powerful and righteous. Despite all the problems, A Tribe Called Quest delivered it to them.
Romare: Love Songs Part Two