1. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
Choosing a favorite album in any given year is always difficult. Lemonade was a huge surprise from an artist of whom I’ve never considered myself a fan. Skeleton Tree devastates in ways few albums do. Malibu is easily the slickest, most enjoyable listen of 2016. And Blackstar is a gorgeous puzzle box that demands intense exploration. But no album this year resonated with me quite as much as the sixth and final studio album from the legendary rap outfit A Tribe Called Quest, reuniting eighteen years after presumed finale The Love Movement.
We Got It from Here… is a technically perfect hip-hop album. Not a single beat, nor verse, nor hook feels out of place. The flows are light and aqueous, almost effortless in their pacing. The chemistry between emcees is unparalleled, which is especially impressive considering the long-held schism between Q-Tip and the late Phife Dawg, resolved prior to recording. Also returning is Jarobi White (who left the group after their debut album to pursue culinary school), as well as frequent collaborators Busta Rhymes and Consequence. The five emcees leap in and out of frame, trading off lines with the self-assured poise of the seasoned rappers they are, occasionally with one of a few carefully selected guest features; listening to Q-Tip and Outkast’s André 3000 dance around one another atop the retro arcade instrumental of “Kids…” is like watching De Niro and Pacino act on opposite sides of a diner booth in Heat.
We Got It from Here… is a glorious celebration of hip-hop, not just for where it’s been, but for where it’s going and its apparent lack of any sort of plateau or zenith. Nostalgic jazz-hop instrumentals paired with contemporary guest artists like Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak. Old-school posse rap rejection of conventional “verse-hook” song structure alongside timely social critique. Love, anger, and grief. A Tribe Called Quest does it all on We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. And even though this may be the last we see of the group in this form, it’s clear that these legends have much more to offer in the years, and, God willing, decades to come.