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It’s almost hard to believe it’s been 18 long years since A Tribe Called Quest dropped a proper album. In a new, very rare interview, the remaining group members discussed their forthcoming new album, We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service, and moving forward without the late, great Phife Dawg. 

Needless to say, Phife’s passing hit everyone hard, but the group was already at work on an album before his untimely death.

Reports the New York Times:

“I had no idea that his days was numbered,” Q-Tip said. Retelling this story in the same room where he had had so many conversations with Phife, he became too emotional to speak. He buried his face in his hands and sobbed. Finally he said, “I just want to celebrate him, you know?”

On Friday, Nov. 11, A Tribe Called Quest will do just that, releasing on Epic Records “We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service,” the group’s sixth album. It features all four of the group’s members plus a host of guests — André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Jack White and Busta Rhymes, a longtime Tribe collaborator who made a heralded appearance on the 1992 posse cut “Scenario.” Busta Rhymes said he saw Q-Tip and Phife in the studio vibing the way they did in the old days. “I seen them laughing and joking and high-fiving, and you can just see that young, invigorated ‘we’re-just-getting-our-first-opportunity-to-do-this’ energy again!” he said. Q-Tip noted, “I hadn’t seen Phife that happy since we were kids.”

As the Abstract noted, the group’s performance on The Tonight Show inspired them to get back in the studio. But first, Tip and Phife got to fixing their long-estranged relationship.

Phife, who was living in Oakland, flew out to Tip’s crib in jersey and they started hashing things out.

“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.” Ms. Taylor said Phife was encouraged by the meeting: “They were developing that chemistry again. He was excited about that.”

Phife found a clinic in New Jersey where he could receive dialysis, and in December 2015, just weeks after the triumphant Fallon performance, he began flying between Oakland and New Jersey twice a month and staying at Q-Tip’s house for weeks at a time to work on the album. The music was inspiring, but Q-Tip believes Phife was primarily focused on repairing their relationship.

“I really believe he did the traveling back and forth, not for this record, but to make sure that me and him, Malik and Jon, were O.K.,” Q-Tip said, using the names they had as children to emphasize the length and depth of their relationship. “Not Ali. Not Jarobi,” he said, choking up. “He came to my house to make sure that he and I were O.K.” In the months of working on the new album, they realized they were more than O.K. Phife even talked about maybe moving to New Jersey to a place near Q-Tip’s. The old friends were still tight.

Real talk, the way We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service was put together, considering what it took to get to this point, will make any tried and true A Tribe Called Quest fan get misty-eyed.

Read the full New York Times story right here.

We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service is in stores Nov. 11. Rest in peace Phife Dawg.