Lyrics to go: A Tribe Called Quest unveil their final star-studded album

We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service is their first album since 1998s The Love Movement and features Kendrick Lemar, Elton John and the last chance to hear the late Phife Dawg

Sometimes a comeback is also a farewell.

The legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest drops its sixth and final full-length album on Friday, a star-studded effort enlisting the help of MCs such as Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000 and Anderson Paak. Elton John and Jack White also team up with the pioneers and now elder statesmen of alternative hip-hop for the release of We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service. The LP was recorded before founding member Phife Dawg passed away in March due to complications from diabetes.

Wednesday night in their home borough of Queens, the group debuted the album to a small group of press and admirers. Original members Q-Tip and Jarobi White discussed the work alongside longtime collaborators Consequence and Busta Rhymes, and the four stressed how the throwback methods for producing the work brought them back to their humble origins a quarter century ago.

We embraced the spirit of one-upping each other, Group leader Q-Tip said. All of the sudden the drapings of ageism and questions of where were at, that shit flew out the fucking window and we fell into science mode. We just locked in and we became fucking kids again.

Rhymes lamented how in the modern era, too much hip-hop collaboration is done remotely and electronically, and how spending time together on We Got It From Here stepped up the quality of the product.

When you write your verse and know your man is in the room with you and you look at him reacting to his own bars that hes impressing himself with, you wanna go over there and hear what hes got to say.

Then when you heard it, Rhymes said, you might go back and change a few of your lines because we were respectfully competing and inspiring each other.

The release will feel instantly familiar to Tribe fans. Producer Q-Tip never strayed far from the elements that have defined the group since its birth. The lyrical interplay between Phife and Tip is as dynamic as ever. Smooth downtempo jazz samples still define the palette. And bass. So much bass.

But the sound isnt exactly retro either. There are no shortage of elements from the contemporary hip-hop toolbox. Some of the old-school, straight-ahead delivery of Tribes early work feels updated with the more flexible stretched and sung syllable play that has become ubiquitous in modern rap. In short, the album listens back as exactly what it is: a Tribe album for 2016.

We spoke at length about the importance of maintaining the essence but not getting trapped in that and just trying to see it beyond, Q-Tip said.

Consequence and Busta Rhymes. Photograph: Rodrigo Villordo/Courvoisier
And as on so many Tribe albums before, Rhymes supplies high test shots of adrenaline whenever necessary. Rhymes, who went on to have the most commercially successful career of the entire Tribe family, was only 19 when he first began performing with Tribe as a member of the Leaders of the New School.

My life changed once I got with my bros, through the good, bad and the indifferent. Even outside of music they gave me guidance on how to deal with a lot of personal shit, Rhymes said. I dont know what my life would be if it wasnt for them.

The catalyst for the album was a reunion performance on the Tonight Show in November 2015 celebrating the 25th anniversary of Tribes debut album, Peoples Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. The next night, as Q-Tip spun a DJ set for a packed crowd at Manhattans Santos Party House, the rest of the group joined him in the booth and the idea took shape.

I didnt think it was really gonna happen, Rhymes said Wednesday night. I thought [Q-Tip] was just in the moment, the whole anniversary celebration. The next day, he still said he was with it. Then I really knew.

The first Tribe release in 18 years will be the groups last, and for good reason: a Tribe album without Phife Dawgs trademark playful, raspy baritone verses would hardly feel like a Tribe album at all. The night, and the albums release in general, have been bittersweet in his absence.

We obviously suffered a great loss with Phife, said Consequence, Q-Tips cousin and a frequent Tribe collaborator since the mid-1990s. We had to look each other in the eye and see each others mortality and understand that were here with a purpose and were a family.

The group will be performing from the new record on this weeks Saturday Night Live, with friend and first-time host Dave Chappelle.

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