Writer/presenter Touré Neblett recently hung out with A Tribe Called Quest for an excellent New York Times feature, which also serves as promotion for the iconic group’s forthcoming (and final) album We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service. It’s definitely one of the most poignant interviews in Hip-Hop to date: the reader gets a very personal look into the lives of Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White‘s lives following the tragic passing of Phife Dawg. With the help of close friends and peers — including Busta Rhymes, André 3000 and Phife’s widow, Deisha Taylor — we also learned much of the recording process for the group’s new project, which was revealed to have been birthed following Tribe’s reunion performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It’s also revealed how Phife’s constant travelling to visit and make music with his crew (especially Q-Tip) took a toll on his health, which is said to have contributed to his untimely death. It’s a very emotional read for sure.
You can enjoy the feature in full here; some excerpts from that have been added below. We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service drops November 11th.
[On Phife’s passing] “I had no idea that his days was numbered,” Q-Tip said. Retelling this story in the same room where he had had so many conversations with Phife, he became too emotional to speak. He buried his face in his hands and sobbed. Finally he said, “I just want to celebrate him, you know?”
…some of the group members think that all that traveling may have contributed to grinding him down, physically. “Doing this album killed him,” Jarobi White said simply. “And he was very happy to go out like that.”
[On the new album] It features all four of the group’s members plus a host of guests — André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Jack White and Busta Rhymes, a longtime Tribe collaborator who made a heralded appearance on the 1992 posse cut “Scenario.”
Q-Tip had one major rule for the album: He insisted that everyone who was a part of it come work in the studio. “If you wrote your rhyme somewhere else, you still had to come back and lay your verse in Q-Tip’s house,” Busta Rhymes said. “So we pretty much did every song together. Everybody wrote his stuff in front of everybody. Everybody spat their rhymes in front of each other. We were throwing ideas around together.”
In the months since Phife died, Q-Tip has worked to finish what he called “the final Tribe album.” Its title is the one Phife wanted. What does it mean? “I don’t know,” Q-Tip said. “We’re just going with it because he liked it.”
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