Next week, A Tribe Called Quest are set to release their first album in nearly two decades. In an interview with the New York Times, group members Q-Tip and Jarobi White revealed additional details of the project, including its title, impressive list of guest collaborators, and the intimate recording process. The pair also discussed the passing of their brother in arms, Phife Dawg, which occurred while the group was in the middle of recording.
The album is called We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service. Along with all four members of ATCQ (Q-Tip, White, Phife, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad), the tracklist boasts guest contributions from Jack White, André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Busta Rhymes, and Consequence. Update: According to a press release, Anderson .Paak and Talib Kweli are also featured on the album.
Recording took place at Q-Tip’s New Jersey studio. “Soft design touches like bamboo floors and pink mood lights contribute to the warm aesthetic,” the Times notes. Q-Tip required all of the album’s collaborators record at his 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 told the Times. “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.”
Q-Tip said he and Jack White first connected when White invited him on-stage to perform “Excursions” during a 2015 concert at Madison Square Garden. Once inside the studio, “We recorded so many tracks and ideas,” Q-Tip recounted. “It’s one of those scenarios where we’re so excited to finally get to work together that it was exploding in a whole different direction. We really didn’t know what we were doing, it was just a ‘hurry up and press record’ kind of moment.” White came to the studio without his own gear, Q-Tip noted, “He just took a guitar off the wall and plugged it in and just got his wizard on.”
Phife Dawg too traveled to Q-Tip’s studio, commuting twice a month from California to New Jersey to work on the album. During this time, the pair also aired out past grievances that led to their initial breakup in the late 1990s. “He came here, and we was bonding,” Q-Tip said. “We went through all of the stuff and apologized, and it was just so good, man. We were so back.”
Even after reconciling, Q-Tip said he was unaware to the extent of Phife Dawg’s health problems. Phife passed away in March 2016 due to complications from diabetes. “I had no idea that his days was numbered,” Q-Tip told the Times. He and Jarobi White believe Phife’s travels may have expedited his death. “Doing this album killed him,” White Said. “And he was very happy to go out like that.”
Q-Tip continued working on the album following Phife Dawg’s death, putting the finishing touches on it until late October. “It’s so hard for me to sit in there and hear his voice,” Q-Tip said. “Sometimes I just have to like take a break and walk away. It gets heavy. It doesn’t necessarily get sad, it just gets heavy. I literally feel the energy from him when I hear his voice.”
We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service is due out November 11th. Update: Check out the album’s newly revealed artwork below.
Watch our Masterpiece Reviews episode on A Tribe Called Quest’s A Low End Theory.