If you're shocked that Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States, members of A Tribe Called Quest want you to know it's probably because you haven't been experiencing life as a black person in America. "I was telling people he was gonna win," said Q-Tip the night after the election at a listening party for ATCQ's new, and final, album We Got It From Here, Thank You For Your Service. "Not that I wanted him to win, but I thought that he would. And the reason he won, I think, is deeply conspiratorial. He got the backing of certain elite motherfuckers, and he activated a group that hadn't been spoken to in a very, very long time. Probably not since the days of George Wallace have we had a presidential candidate with the official backing of the Ku Klux Klan." (The Klan also endorsed Ronald Reagan, who, like Trump, rejected their support.)
"I knew it was gonna happen," added Jarobi White. "We've been saying, 'Hey, three-quarters of the country is fucking racist,' and everybody's like, 'Oh no, it isn't.' So yeah, I expected it." Plus, unlike white liberals talking among themselves on Facebook, he's actually spent significant time in middle America. "There was no doubt in my mind. I've been touring all over the country. I knew that there's a lot of people who feel left behind and disenfranchised and neither one of the parties addressed them, so they were looking for something that wasn't a part of the thing that's been giving them so much angst for their whole lives." Busta Rhymes, too, saw this coming. "I kinda wasn't surprised," said Busta. "I don't think too many people were happy about us having an incredible president like Barack Obama and they wanted to make sure that they didn't let that happen again any time soon. Not even anything close to him. This is a way that the people that aren't happy about these things go about showing it."
Q-Tip — who could be seen two years ago marching in a Black Lives Matter protest after a Missouri grand jury refused to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of unarmed black man Michael Brown — said he hadn't slept since the results came in. "There's a crazy divide that we have to examine because we can't skirt around it. And it's racial. We saw African-Americans come out in huge numbers for Obama. They disappeared. They weren't spoken to. And adversely you see the huge amount of white men and white women who were activated and spoken to, and they won. They won! People are saying Trump was just saying that shit to get elected. But whatever the case is, he ran on an energy that a lot of people connected to. We have a real serious fuckin' issue here, you know what I'm saying?"
It wasn't just the country's racism that tipped Q-Tip off that Trump would win, but Hillary Clinton's weaknesses as a candidate. "I saw that she was kinda lackadaisical," he said. "There was a certain bourgeois elitism that she had to the way that she ran it. She totally didn't go to places like Wisconsin because she thought she had that shit in the bag because she won it in the primary, but that wound up to bite her. She wasn't dogged enough, which she needed to be." Meanwhile, Jarobi is "severely disappointed in this country," but is holding onto hope that Trump will prove to be the guy any long-time New Yorker knows him to be. "I mean, he's a sleaze-fucking-ball," he said. "But we have mutual friends in common and for him to have those friends he has to have some kind of redeeming qualities."
Busta still hasn't moved from despondency to acceptance. He voted for Hillary, "and I'm really sorry she didn't get it," he said. He'd spent election night calling friends in high places, and when one finally told him that it would take a miracle for Hillary to win, he said: "That's when the tear-jerk moment happened. I cried out of disappointment more than anything else, that we elected a man who doesn't have one single second of political experience. What he represents is frightening."
He cried again, he said, the next morning when he had to talk to his children. "It's weird to not be able to explain to your child, when they're old enough to say to you, 'Dad, we loved having Barack Obama,' right?" said Busta. "But we also saw a lot of horrible things done to black people while we have Barack Obama in office, with the police killings and all of that. What is it going to be like now with a man who actually is an advocate for the things?" As a result, he has vowed to become more educated on how the system actually works: "It really put a battery in my back, personally, to want to do that research, because I needed more answers than what I was able to come up with last night and I don't have them."
Q-Tip, meanwhile, is already thinking of the kind of music he'd make out of this. "As an artist, what can I do? I sing a song and bang on a drum," he said. "But hopefully we can bring about a mood or some sort of inspiration where people can aspire to do better. Aspire to change shit. That's all we can do."