Modern hip-hop and R&B music can both arguably be divided into pre- and post-A Tribe Called Quest for the artist known as Q-Tip. Consider the jazzy sampling, laid-back tempos and boho-chic vibe he introduced, then mull over the bohemian posturing and sounds of the neo-soul movement, plus any rap music that shies away from hardcore posturing. All roads lead back to ATCQ and the beats, rhymes and life of one man: Q-Tip. And now the time is ripe for “The Renaissance,” the Abstract MC’s first solo album in nine years.
Back when rap production was all about James Brown samples and dense, agitated sonic collages, Q-Tip was digging deeper into the record crates for snatches of stand-up bass and obscure jazz. The influence of that first sonic renaissance is still being heard. “I see the Tribe legacy as one of the strongest in modern music,” Q-Tip admits. “From us came so many artists, like Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, the Fugees and Kanye West. I feel very honored to have been able to contribute in such a way that, 20 years later, it still is a reference point.” Produced primarily by Q-Tip with plenty of live instrumentation and a love fixation, The Renaissance is a stark portrait of the artist as an elder statesman. One listen to the frenetic drumming and strutting live bassline of a track like “ManWomanBoogie” reveals that Q-Tip is on a mission to create original music as timeless as the tracks he used to sample once upon a time. It’s also obvious that the title of his latest album is no accident. “The Renaissance is significant because for some time now people have questioned the integrity of hip-hop,” he reveals. “I feel like the time is ideal for something that has a revisionist spirit to it.”
“Won’t Trade” – Easily the album’s best moment. Q-Tip sounds strong as ever.
“Official” – Either Q-Tip is sucking down helium or he’s grabbed a b-side from his younger Tribe days.
“Move” – Hot beat borrowed from the Jackson 5 made all the better by Q-Tip’s slick rhyme style. So what do you got Kanye?
“Dance On Glass” – Another helium track where Q-Tip rips it freestyle. Q hasn’t been this tight since the Tribe was pounding woofers and flicking tweeters.
“Life Is Better” f/Norah Jones – Norah Jones sings the same thing over and over–which means she was wasted. Luckily Q-Tip doesn’t waste any time. Does he take a breath?
“Believe” f/D’Angelo – Q-Tip does his best Outkast impersonation. And I’ll be damned if it isn’t good.
“Gettin’ Up” – Has its moments of quality Tribe-like lyrics and other moments of being average.
“Johnny Is Dead” – I love Q-Tip but this is boring.
“We fight/we love” – Sappy and weak chorus. Whoever provides the female vocals better go back to the drawing board.
Q-Tip is back and we won’t go as far as saying he’s better than ever, however this is his best release since “The Low End Theory.” Q-tip is on his game. There are a few tracks that don’t hold up and its easy to forgive him. Rarely does an album title nail it, but this is a renaissance.
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