For our third ‘Shouldabin’ award, we’re going to have to break a Mercury rule. But that’s fine because, as every GSCE Chemistry student knows, Mercury is a liquid at room temperature so, to our minds, the rules can be somewhat fluid. Mercury Nominees have to either be born in the U.K. or 30% of the band must have British citizenship. But, in a world where talk of erecting borders is everywhere, we at MonoKrome are tearing one down. After all, music can’t be bound by borders. So, with out further ado, our third, approximately 0% British winner…
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
Zeitgeist. That’s always been the underbelly of A Tribe Called Quest’s albums; pounding poetic potency. So, in what are, for most of us, terrifying times with actions causing fractions and the infliction of friction, came the call to arms for A Tribe Called Quest. The saying goes “Sometimes it has to get worse to get better”, for Tribe, it had to get worse to get together. And so, with enough source material to shake a Q-Tip at, they set about making ‘We Got It From Here…‘
Recent events in Charlottesville and the general rise of bigotry in the U.S have given lead single ‘We the People…’ a harrowing pertinence. With a hook that would have a Trump rally swooning, Q-Tip refrains “All you Black folks, you must go/All you Mexicans, you must go/And all you poor folks, you must go/Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways”.
But, as the ultimate rebuttal of those scornful sentiments ‘We Got It From Here…’ is a testament to togetherness. Jack White, Andre 3000, Elton John, Kayne West, Kendrick Lamar and Andersoon Paak all lent their considerable talents to the album and, crucially, all their contributions were made in Q-Tip’s New Jersey studio (with the exceptions of Elton and Kanye). Jack White’s scratchy guitar and Elton John’s transportive vocals give ‘Solid Wall of Sound’ the credentials to become a hip hop classic. And, with help from André 3000, Q-Tip neatly sums up the exhausting frustration that most millennials feel everyday when they wake up to headlines of Trump, Korea, Brexit etc: “Fuck it, kids, the grown-ups won’t own up”. The album is a funky but terrifying address to the many elephants in the room.
But lurking behind those elephants is a big black dog – namely the passing of founding member Phife Dawg in March of 2016. Whilst his passing at only 45 years-old is a tragedy, it bestows upon the album a poignancy that few hip hop albums obtain. Tracks like ‘Lost Somebody’ and ‘The Donald’ (a reference to Phife Dawg’s moniker ‘Don Juice’, not the pugnacious President) pay heartfelt tribute to the flawless flow of the “Five Foot Assassin”.
For me, it’s the pure musicality and the pertinent wit of this album that set it apart. Whilst hip hop can have a tendency to focus on braggadocio, the darkness-defying deferential undercurrent of ‘We Got It From Here…‘ proves that true brilliance is earned, not claimed. If only they were British ay…?