As much as I wanted to like this album, after playing it > half a dozen times I still can't get into it at all, so I'm drawing the line and saying it's not as bad as I feared it might be, but I don't like it either.
So it's been 18 years, but this record has precious little in common with any of the previous Tribe releases IMO. If anything it strikes me as more of a half baked experimental Q-Tip solo that was turned into a Native Tongue Allstars project at some point...?
THE best thing about this record hands down is Tip's rapping. He still sounds great, from the way he rhymes to all the different inflections in his voice (although I could've done without the singing). Hearing him share the mic with Phife was enjoyable as well, although Malik is nowhere near his prime anymore here. (I was shaking my head at people paying big bucks for Phife's Euro-released solo album shortly after he passed, too - it has some solid beats but other than that it's just not very good...)
'Space Program' is a decent opener, too, but Phife doesn't even have a proper verse on it.
And while he does get a bit more time throughout the following tracks, he's sharing mic duties with way too many other people for my liking.
I can understand why they wanted to bring Jarobi back as their 4th (even though he sounds rather tired), but I doubt anyone would've missed Consequence as 5th and Busta as 6th (!) "group members"? Not that I mind Busta making an appearance or two, as he's been down with Tribe for a long time and 'Scenario' or 'Oh My God' wouldn't be the same without his voice, but 4 out of 16 tracks is pushing it a bit for me.
In fact I'd go so far as to say all of the feature appearances ended up being more of a chance for people who've been affiliated and/or influenced by Tribe over the years to do their thing. Without naming names I felt like a lot of that stuff was filler... And for some reason (mastering?) with the notable exception of Tip people's voices are all over the place as well - Phife sounds like he has a cold at least once while Busta seems to be rhyming from under his tongue? I thought everyone recorded at Q-Tip's house...?
And that's just the vocal side of things - there's so much more to be said about the production, song structures and general sound/feel of this record. It seems a bit overkill to put everything into a single post though.
Here's some food for thought though: Does anyone really understand the group's motivation to tackle another project after all these years - beyond it providing a setting for Kamaal and Malik to work out their unfortunate personal differences? Creatively and given the IMMENSE level of expectations it was always an insurmountable task, and in the end I'm not convinced this album is a worthy addition or fitting end cap to ATCQ's catalogue or overall legacy...
If it weren't for their classics this record certainly wouldn't be getting even a fraction of the attention (and I dare say the positive reception) it has been receiving. Discuss.