“A lot of the things we put in this album, it’s not for shits and giggles. It’s not for fucking entertainment. A lot of this shit is hopefully an impetus for some change, because shit is getting drastic.” — Jarobi White
Q-Tip: “We May Be Tired And Upset But We’re Not Going To Quit”
A conversation with Q-Tip and Jarobi about making an album that’s in tune with the world.
We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service is out today, A Tribe Called Quest’s final album after 18 years. The LP is timely, with a great energy and bars on bars of wisdom. While working on the new songs, the group says they were connected to the world around them in a new way, and that the songs were designed to provide balance in these trying, in-between times.
Last night at the Sonos store in Manhattan, Q-Tip and Jarobi White had a little album release party and Phife Dawg, who passed in March, was there in spirit. In celebration of the project, Sonos also launched a brand new limited edition PLAY:5 speaker, which features A Tribe Called Quest’s trademark red and green color palette. While energizing songs from the project filled up the space, heads bobbed and bodies rocked. Q-Tip and Jarobi caught up with The FADER, discussing the socio-political implications of the record, how to push forward after the election, and what you can look forward to during their performance this weekend on Saturday Night Live.
The song “We The People…” is very much tapped into the cultural tension in America. It almost sounds as if y’all knew what the outcome of this election would be. Would either of you say that you foresaw this, in a way?
JAROBI: Yeah, we kind of knew. Phife had the crystal ball on that one.
Q-TIP: I don’t know if it was foreseeing… we were trying to be honest and stay in-tune to our faculty and our meter regardless of what was happening at that moment around us.
JAROBI: I didn’t think he was going to win, but the fact that it got that far yanked the shade up on what this country is really like. I think that’s where we wrote from. The first track was more in the spirit of moving forward.
That first song is called “The Space Program,” and it’s a call for change and unity with lyrics like, “Gotta get it together forever, Gotta get it together for brothers, Gotta get it together for sisters.” What are some ways people can continue to organize moving forward right now?
Q-TIP: I believe that we really have to make a distinction between us as citizens — us as people of the earth — and people who are in positions to pass legislations and pass laws. Then once we make that distinction, we have to also figure out, who is really speaking to our betterment as individuals, and who’s speaking to us as a whole? Lastly and more importantly, is that the power truly lies with people and citizens, because we are the ones who are living life on a day-to-day basis. For us, we’re just lonely musicians and artists. We shout shit out and we try to articulate things and put it in an artistic fabric.
Trump ran now, but we have to realize that we’re a part of a natural universe. It may sound “un hip-hop” and shit but, ecologically, we’re dying at a super fast rate. The North and South polar caps are melting and when it does that, we’re met with hurricanes and things we haven’t seen in hundreds of years, like cyclones. Pretty soon in this country, water is going to be an issue and people are going to be dying in the streets over water and the shortage of it.
Now we have an incoming president-elect who really thumbs his nose at the idea of the environment being a real threat. I’m sorry I’m going on a soap box, but I just think it’s really important. We love our brothers, whether it be the song, “Broccoli” or Lil Uzi Vert — we need those [songs] because it’s about balance. Certain things present certain energies.