In these hard times, we can all stand a ray of hope. Hope in hip-hop now comes from the legendary Q-Tip, he of A Tribe Called Quest fame. His long-delayed album Kamaal the Abstract, slated originally for release in 2001, is finally dropping September 15th on Battery Records. A musical hybrid, Kamaal was commendably avant-garde at the time of its creation. Amazingly, it’s even more apropos in 2009; given the dearth of musical merit and capable MCs in today’s hip-hop, the time is ever-so-right for Tip.
Kamaal the Abstract is an intensely idiosyncratic and revealing record. To that end, Q-Tip produced the entire album himself, even playing several instruments. What comes from Kamaal is a daring mélange of soul, supa-cool jazz, headnodding hip-hop, and organic pop magic in the vein of Stevie Wonder or Prince. Check for the superlative figures of saxophonist Kenny Garrett, a one-time member of Miles Davis’ ensemble, on the breathy “Abstractionisms.” Or the fluid flute lines of Gary Thomas, another Davis sideman, on “Do U Dig U.” Elsewhere, note Tip’s ambitious production, arrangements, and even sung stylings.
But make no mistake: Kamaal the Abstract still boasts all the earmarks of Q-Tip’s inimitable mic control. Listen to him blaze through a spiced narrative on “Even If It Is So.” Or paint vivid images on “Blue Girl.” The album has been re-mixed and re-mastered for sonic impact, though it retains the original album artwork. Neil Levine SVP/GM of Battery Records is proud to release this buried treasure from Q-Tip: “Kamaal the Abstract/Q-Tip is a true visionary and ahead of his time. These songs sound more contemporary now than when they were first recorded”. Kamaal the Abstract drops September 15th. Better late than never.