A Tribe Called Quest hits the ground running on “The Space Program”

Try to resist it, but context is everything. When word filtered down the pipeline that A Tribe Called Quest, yes A Tribe Called Quest, was to release a new album after an 18 year absence, the music world rejoiced. In the midst of the most polarizing presidential campaign this generation, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service was supposed to be the final death knell of racial intolerance, set to the backdrop of America rejecting a KKK-endorsed major party candidate.

After the mindfuck that was Tuesday night, A Tribe Called Quest’s new album found itself in a completely different context. A song such as “We the People,” for instance, is no longer a repudiation of fringe politics, but a polemic to official government policy. Opener  “The Space Program” isn’t the first step in mending a fragmented nation, but a forceful statement of resistance. The song is grounded in stark reality, where escapism is nil. “There ain’t a space program for niggas, You stuck here,” the group raps on the hook as the beat bounces with a vital optimism. “Got to get it together for brothers,” raps the late Phife Dawg a little further on. It was always an essential message, but made even more so in the context of the past week. Change always comes from the ground up, not from space down. And as Thank You 4 Your Service opens, A Tribe Called Quest shows they don’t need a space program to fly high.

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