On Saturday Nov. 12, A Tribe Called Quest performed for the first time on Saturday Night Live. They performed two songs from their first new album in 18 years, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.
The group brought a powerful performance that showcased their spirit and essence, a tribute to the late Phife Dawg and political activism.
The popularity of the rap group — and the fact that they hadn’t put out any new music in almost two decades — made Saturday night’s performance even more significant.
The first song performed is one of the more popular songs on the new record, “We The People…” A politically driven song, the choice seemed appropriate given the current situation of the nation.
Before the song started, Q-Tip, the most famous face of the group, spoke to the audience and the camera encouraging everybody to stand up, hold hands and put a fist in the air before stating, “We are all one, we are the people.”
Then the beat kicked in.
The rhythm and instrumentals of the song are very similar to what we have become used to from ATCQ but with a modern twist. A simple beat with a unique sample played throughout the song. The DJ, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, kept bringing the beat in and out as Q-Tip and Jarobi White would keep their flow with the verses, sometimes a capella, sometimes not.
The chorus of the song seemed to be the most political as the two rapped: “All of you black folks, you must go / All you Mexicans, you must go / And all you poor folks, you must go / Muslims and gays, boy do we hate your ways.”
As made evident by the group, these lyrics were not to be taken seriously, but rather an angry and surprised response to what’s happening in America.
Being political rappers, this approach is not too far off the beaten path for ATCQ, but rather something they seem extremely passionate about. The magnitude of the live performance on SNL showcased their true opinions, and what seems to be opinions of many across the country.
The verse immediately after the powerful chorus was one of great emotion for the group and the rap/hip-hop community at large. It is a verse rapped by the late great Phife Dawg, who passed in March.
As his verse started, Q-Tip and Jarobi slowly shuffled to opposite ends of the stage as a banner flung down with a painting and a picture of Phife’s head pasted on. The lights went out and all we saw was Phife’s picture as we heard his verse to the song. As the song went on, both Q-Tip and Jarobi would look at the picture and speak to him in between lines. A somber, yet respectful moment as the group paid homage to their lost member.
The second song performed was “The Space Program,” the opening track on the new album.
As the banner of Phife Dawg still hung in the background, the two MCs put on another passionate and meaningful performance.
Another song that sounds like it’s from the early 90’s, the flow of Jarobi and Q-tip did not seem like anything had changed since their last album.
A politically driven song, the two preached (the clean lyrics): “There ain’t no space program here for us / We stuck here y’all.” As the song faded out, Q-tip got off the stage and spoke to the audience, talking about how “we can’t give up.”
The song ended with two more iconic rappers, Consequence and Busta Rhymes, joining the group to close out the song, drawing in more significance and star power to that night’s show.
ATCQ’s SNL performance brought about many things, both nostalgic and current. They gave us a glimpse of what the rap community has been missing both musically and politically.
The beats, rhythms and flows of the group is something only ATCQ can pull off, and they showcased that Saturday night.
They also came with a significant political message clearly stating where they stand on the political spectrum, and what they think about the current situation in America.
Lastly, the performance paid respect to one of their own. A lot of love was shown for Phife Dawg in both their songs, and this made that evening even more powerful.
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of Saturday Night Live on Facebook.
Vidal Serfaty is a junior broadcast journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.