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Songs We Love: A Tribe Called Quest, 'Dis Generation'

A still from A Tribe Called Quest's "Dis Generation" videoclosemore
A still from A Tribe Called Quest's "Dis Generation" video

A Tribe Called Quest's latest visual from its four-month-old reunion album, We got it from Here...Thank You 4 Your service, dropped Thursday and its a poetic distillation of hip-hop's generation gap.

Directed by Hiro Murai, the same auteur behind Donald Glover's Golden Globe winning "Atlanta" series, "Dis Generation" finds the remaining members of Tribe (Q-Tip, Jarobi, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and longtime collaborator Busta Rhymes) dancing in the shadows — literally and figuratively — as they school listeners with lyrical wordplay. For a group whose visual presentation has always been on-point, it's right up there with the best Tribe videos of all time — word to Phife, whose presence is felt verbally if not visually.

It's also one of the best songs on an LP full of great ones. As the centerpiece of the album, "Dis Generation" both celebrates and challenges hip-hop's newcomers as Tribe's members trade bars, likening their own lyrical ability to some high-grade smoke. Delivered over a bouncy track constructed around guitar loops, piano licks and a glimmering sample from Argentinian prog rock band Invisible's 1976 song "Ruido De Magia [Magic Noise]," Tribe flows with its signature brand of youthful exuberance. It's like they're kids again, but with the wisdom of experience to season their swag. Even the bare bones hook samples the popular vocal ("this generation / rules the nation!") from British reggae band Musical Youth's 1982 weed anthem "Pass the Dutchie," one of rap's most enduring references.

"You can't define us, X, Y us, or Z us / you generational elitists," Q-Tip raps, pushing back at rap's ageist tendencies. It's a stark reminder of the midlife crisis the genre found itself fully engulfed in a couple of years ago. The video's release coincided Thursday with the premiere of Kendrick Lamar's visual for "HUMBLE," the first single from what is presumed to be his forthcoming studio album. Each innovative in their own right, both videos (and songs) prove that the discourse around rap's generation gap over the past year fails to account for the rare common denominator: timelessness.

Q-Tip conveys that sentiment well when he nods to such contemporary standouts as Joey Bada$$, Earl Sweatshirt, J. Cole and, of course, Kendrick Lamar: "Talk to Joey, Earl, Kendrick, and Cole / gatekeepers of flow / They are extensions of instinctual soul." It's almost like he's passing the dutchie — or, in this case, the baton — to the left-hand side.

Copyright NPR 2017.

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