Yo, Z, what's the best thing to come out of the last few weeks of 2016?
The best thing to come out of the last few weeks of 2016, and maybe all of 2016, and maybe even farther back than that, is A Tribe Called Quest's new album "We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service." It's their first album in 18 years and boy could I use it. As I said here, "Phife's death bums me out. We'll never get another ATCQ album." So this was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy week. We got another Tribe album and it's damn good!
|yo microphone check one, two, what is this|
Speaking of slightly different, new season, new team. Who's your pick for Tribe MVP?
You aren't going to believe this but I think it's Donald Trump. This album is more overtly political than previous ones and it's definitely influenced by the themes of the 2016 campaign. Check out "We The People" for example.
That's some golden age conscious stuff right there. Chuck D and KRS-ONE have this on repeat. And man is it nice to hear that old Q-Tip snare and high-hat.
I don't know if Omar gets down with Q-Tip (guess: he does), but if we're talking about basketball MVPs, the 6'7" senior is clearly W&M's leading man. The 2015-16 first-team All-CAA selection averaged 17.8 points per game on 49.1% shooting last season, and ranks 13th in Tribe hoops history with 1,361 points.
Prewitt's going to have to carry a big leadership load this year, too, as one of only two seniors on the roster. W&M will miss graduated do-everything forward Terry Tarpey immensely. The 2015-16 CAA Defensive Player of the Year averaged double digit points, and led the team in rebounds, blocks, and steals. There's never been a player like him in W&M's long (if not necessarily distinguished) hoops history. He's irreplaceable as a source of energy and intensity.
And Sean Sheldon's size and improved offensive skill will be difficult for the Wrens to replicate in the post. They're going to need a couple of new dudes to step way up.
But that's true for both Tribes, isn't it?
Phife's death obviously means the end of ATCQ as we know it, I don't think anyone can step up and fill his shoes. Jarobi actually spits a few verses on this album (for the first time ever) but he can't replace Phife. No one can. You can't have a Tribe album without him. And his last two verses are memorable. The penultimate is a duo with Kendrick Lamar called "Conrad Tokyo" and it's predictably excellent.
Phife waded into politics in his first recorded verse ("Mr. Dinkins won't you please be our mayor?") so it's fitting that he offered up one last round of social commentary. His last song, "The Donald," is bittersweet--his verse is entirely braggadocio, bookended by a respectful introduction from Busta Rhymes and a props-filled outro from Q-Tip. Tip and Phife were friends for something like 40 years and it feels like Tip constructed this song as an homage to his oldest friend. This is the last ATCQ song we'll ever hear for the first time and I think Q-Tip wanted it that way.
Jeez, it's getting dusty in here. On a lighter note, the samples on this album are pretty risky in spots. The Ooompa Loompa song from "Willy Wonka," I think some dialogue from "Young Frankenstein," and ... "Benny and the Jets"?!? Sure, Biz Markie covers this song but it doesn't seem to lend itself to a hot beat. Credit Q-Tip's genius as a producer to turn an ancient Elton John song into a modern banger. "Solid Wall of Sound" takes big risks and they pay off.
Did Tribe hoops take any risks this year that need to pay off big in order to get that ever-elusive NCAA bid?
|this makes me happy|
So we've got the scoring covered. The rebounding and defense, well, that's a bit of a different story. 6'9" junior Jack Whitman will get most of the early minutes, but he's on the thin side, and he's never put up more than 2.7 rebounds per game. Sophomore sensation Hunter Seacat (!) is a big body (and only a sensation because of his name) who showed some flashes in limited action last year, but he'll have to take a big step up to help fill Sheldon's role. 6'10", 250-lb freshman Nathan Knight is raw, but he's big and physical, and if he can adapt to the college game, he'll make an impression.
Game remains the same, though, for the Tribe. When we shoot the ball well, we can beat anybody. When we go a little cold, we can lose ugly. Last year's 91-63 loss to Hofstra says hello.
So what's your takeaway? Does the new Tribe record herald a turning point, or is it just one bright point in an otherwise bleakening landscape? And how does ATCQ relate to a Tribe ball quest?
I really think it's a turning point. Tribe are heroes to a lot of younger MCs and I guarantee this album will be repeatedly listened to and dissected by oldheads and youngheads alike. I think it will inspire other rappers to couple out-of-left-field production with left-of-center lyrics leading to a renaissance of conscious political hiphop. I think we've had enough coke and codeine rhymes for now.
ATCQ was four guys who grew up together and used their friendship as a foundation to create some of the best hiphop ever. They had tremendous early success but internal strife led to music of lesser quality. With this album they've returned to greatness one last time. If Tribe hoops can mimic this within the microcosm of a basketball season they could win the CAA tourney and finally make the big dance. It would be a turning point for both Tribes, I guess.
One other potential turning point could be for Andre 3000 to build on his cameo verse on this record and join ATCQ as Questlove suggested. I can't fully wrap my head around that but I think it would work. Sort of like getting a transfer student who turns into a major contributor.
Kinda like David Cohn last year, then.
As for the W&M Tribe, lots of observers like them to contend again in the CAA. Tony Shaver's teams have recorded 20 wins or more in three consecutive seasons. A fourth would be unprecedented (I think. Not gonna look it up.). They'll play a lot of 81-77 games this year, and a couple of 82-55 contests (both ways). The league's coaches and media folks picked W&M to finish third, which is a statement of respect for Shaver as much as anything else. There are a bunch of teams that have a shot this year, including defending champion UNCW, Hofstra, talented Towson, and much-improved College of Charleston.
Me, I think third's a bit too high, but I'll tip the Tribe for a first-round bye. (Q-Tip can have that rhyme for free.)
But I'll go one better. The universe owes us some happy. And #1bid4wmtribe would make a lot of people happy - even folks with no affiliation to W&M. It's happening this year.
As the Tribe flies high like a dove.