Tribe’s “We The People….” is a Jarring Indictment of Present-Day America

By | Posted November 11, 2016
The most poignant moment on "We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service" is delivered on its second track.
2016-11-11-atcq-we-the-people

A Tribe Called Quest released their highly anticipated (and excellent) album We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service earlier today (November 11), and the most striking aspect of the project is its seamless blending of nostalgia with novelty.

As the group’s final album, it reels in the quartet’s fondness for sharp drums and snappy, jazz-influenced, sampled beat selections and showcases the familiar delivery of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Jarobi, and friends.

Among the album’s 16 tracks, “We The People….” is an exceptional standout, its drums somehow even more hard-hitting and acute, which Q-Tip uses to accentuate his opening:

“We don't believe you 'cause we the people / I'll still be in the rear, yo, we don't need you / You ain't a killer nor good, young nigga, move / When we get hungry we eat the same fucking food / The ramen noodle.”

Indeed, this is one of the most political songs on a project full of political sentiment. In the first verse, Q-Tip references the Preamble to the Constitution—something the Founding Fathers hoped would help guide us—and presents an appeal to humanity: When we’re hungry, we eat; when we’re thirsty, we drink. Our common ground is that we’re all people.

Still, even while we try to guide each other, we manage to hamper each other’s growth.

There isn’t a more accurate representation of the times than “We The People….” On the hook, Q-Tip collects all the different races and creeds that President-Elect Donald Trump targeted throughout his campaign. “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 / So all you bad folks, you must go.

But Tip and Phife leave all real decisions up to the cosmos, “It's kismet that we cosmic with the stars,” they rap together during the bridge. It’s a poignant moment, which also feels like a nod to Phife, who reunited with the group when his health was on a rapid decline—and who passed before the album was finished, headed to the cosmos himself.

Phife’s verse is striking and pointed. He gives credence to gender equality and street art mediums like graffiti and rap—and further solidifies ATCQ’s significance, “The Tribe be the best in they division / Shaheed Muhammad cut it with precision / Who can come back years later, still hit the shot?

While the song ends on Tip’s hook, we’re forced to think about the ramifications that Trump’s racist, sexist, homophobic and prejudiced agenda have on this world. While his appeal is to a White America—one rooted in deportation, demonization, hate and fascism—the rest of us, the mosaic that makes America America, are championing Q-Tip’s appeal to humanity.

***

By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Instagram

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By , a hip-hop writer based in Chicago.
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