A Tribe Called Quest is releasing their final album, We Got It from Here, Thank You for Your Service, next week. While I am more than certain that the project is one of love, life and celebration, the title itself makes me feel a way.
I read the New York Times article, Loss Haunts A Tribe Called Quest’s First Album in 18 Years yesterday. It was a heavy, yet beautiful. I had this unidentifiable feeling looking at pictures of Jarobi with a graying beard and Q-Tip-who seemed to never age-beginning to look like a man in his mid-forties. The world and myself have been waiting for “A-E-I-O-U…and sometimes Y” to get it together and lace us with new music; but not like this; but I understand.
A Tribe Called Quest means a lot to me. I’m from Queens. I’m from St. Albans. “Back in the days on the Boulevard of Linden” is not some classic rap lyric to me; it’s my reality. I drive past the block that on November 19 will be renamed “Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor Way” all of the time. My grandfather’s wake was held at the funeral home right across the street from the Nu-Clear Cleaners Tribe stood on and filmed the music video for “Check the Rhyme.”
The Midnight Marauders’ music was the soundtrack to the hardest period of my life. The October 2011 release of Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest prompted me to listen to their whole catalog repeatedly. Timile, Cydney, and I were in the process of relocating from Buffalo to Virginia. Cyd left with her grandparents October 14, I drove Timile down the weekend of the 20th, and I worked in Buffalo for an extra week, completing the move October 31st.
Virginia was a very tough time because I was by myself. I spent all day applying for jobs at a Starbucks, visited Timile in the hospital during the evenings (only for a half hour at a time because her parents told me I had to sneak around and hide), and spend time with my daughter at the in-laws with vigilant eyes watching me as if Cydney wasn’t my child.
Q-Tip and Phife’s words, Ali Shaheed’s soundscape, and Jarobi’s spirit were the only friends I had in Virginia during those three weeks. Living in a place that was nothing like my stomping grounds, the music was all I had to cure my homesickness. I needed their playful lyrics to express what was a complicated time and abstract thoughts. My mother was just starting her first round of chemotherapy, so even there I was feeling depleted because I had spent all of my time being there for others. I had my big brother, Barry, and my good friend Donnell that I could call and vent to. To this day, I can barely listen to the album Beats, Rhymes, and Life in its entirety…its darkness and frustration with changing times give me Vietnam Flashbacks to those evenings.
However, I can listen to “God Lives Through” from Midnight Marauders all day and not get tired of it. It was the perfect ending to a perfect album. That was the victory lap of a time that can never be replicated. So when it plays, you just vibe out and remember the struggle and hard times with a melancholy smile. It’s the welcomed kind of moodiness, if that makes sense. If one asks me how I feel about living in Virginia five years ago, it’s a pleasant sadness I think of very fondly. Timile Brown may have still been alive; but that was the beginning of the Single Dadventures.
*Does litmus test to see if I can write with Beats, Rhymes, and Life playing. Turns Midnight Marauders back on…Beats was too distracting.*
Reading the Times article yesterday afternoon was interesting. Jarobi lamented on how traveling and recording this last album was taking a toll on Phife, who had been living with diabetes since 1990 and succumbed to the disease March 22, 2016. The click bait articles are trolling by using headlines like “The Final Tribe Album Killed Phife” or some shit that I’m exaggerating to get my point across. Some people are just not going to understand; but I do.
The phrase “Now I can die in peace” is often a joke; but the sentiment is a real thing. I truly believe that Malik Taylor knew his time on earth was coming to an end. The only thing he had left to do was make right with his friend since four years old, Q-Tip, and lay down some Tribe music. I have witnessed people “transition,” in which they stick around on earth until a few more things are in order and then let go. They see the world very differently. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why Q-Tip said that he had a very hard time listening to Phife’s vocals on this new album. Other than him no longer being with us, there is probably something very different about the timbre of his voice. Those who are transitioning sound different.
The heavy feeling that is sitting with me in lieu of this final Tribe album is one of completion. I have been trying to see them live ever since. I missed them a few times in New York (I was late to when they opened up for Kanye West at the Barclay’s Arena in 2013); but things happen the way they are supposed to.
I think I was unconsciously searching for a closing to an emotional void. For the past five years, there has been a lack of vulnerability on my end. I am used to my emotional processing being an internal process that even in times of wanting to shed tears I literally can’t. It’s time for things to be different. So I guess with the last album dropping November 11, 2016, I can say to friends that helped me through a very tough time-Timile, Donnell, A Tribe Called Quest-I got it from here, thank you for your service.