Release Date: Nov 4, 2008
Record label: Universal Motown
Where has A Tribe Called Quest’s former leader been since his 1999 solo debut? Oh, that’s right, trapped in major-label purgatory while recording hours upon hours of — unfathomably — unreleased music. But let’s not waste time worrying about that. Instead, just enjoy another opportunity to hear his insightful yet playful rhymes unspool over jazzy sound collages on Renaissance.
When the best rapper/producer in hip-hop history spends almost a decade without a record on the shelves (despite his best efforts), it has to be considered a crime -- if not a tragedy. Difficult to tell, though, is why Q-Tip was bounced to five different labels within six years. He never pronounced himself angry about the situation, saying only that he continued to work, reportedly recording three full albums that were never released.
Q-Tip :: The RenaissanceUniversal MotownAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaIn this ass-heavy end to the Hip Hop 2008, here is another contender for the "Most Eagerly Anticipated Album" - especially since nine years have passed since Q-Tip last released an official full-length effort. To put that into context, A Tribe Called Quest released ALL their work in a nine-year period... Then Q-Tip released his only solo album "Amplified" in 1999, a move that threw pretty much everyone.
Swearing at MotoristsAfter nearly a decade, former Tribe mainman gets his long-awaited day in the sunBack when he was rockin’ the mic for A Tribe Called Quest, the man formerly known as Jonathan Davis (AKA: living hip-hop legend Q-Tip) was known for coming correct with a distinctively nasal message of positivity wrapped in the choicest rare grooves available, going against the then-prevalent Thug Life grain of bitches/blunts/bling. His songs moved both asses and minds simultaneously, pioneering a whole new school of alternative hip-hop in the process. Swearing at MotoristsA decade after his group’s demise, Q-Tip is finally issuing his second solo work; one planned for release between his 1999 debut Amplified and this one, 2002’s Kamaal the Abstract, mysteriously never made it to store shelves and has become something of a latter-day underground legend as a result.
It's a measure of the length of Q-Tip's absence that the chief criticism levelled at his last album was that it was 'too jiggy'. Other buzzwords and sub-genres, such as bling, coke and crunk, have risen and faded since 1999's Amplified, but they at least saw the light of day, more than can be said for the trio of albums recorded by Q-Tip and subsequently junked, either by faithless record labels or the perfectionist rapper himself. Indecision has also bedevilled his former group, A Tribe Called Quest, whose much-touted reunion has been confined to their carrying out a couple of smallish US tours.
After his former label shelved his 2002 disc Kamaal The Abstract, reputedly for lack of commercial potential, Q-Tip might've decided to simply play the game and knock out a conventional hip-hop album of throwback beats and good-time rhymes reminiscent of his best-loved work with A Tribe Called Quest. But that wouldn't be Q-Tip. So the cookie-cutter joints are tossed out the window for The Renaissance as Q-Tip attempts to show that he can creatively flow over whatever unusual progression or production twist comes along with each successive track.
The spirit of the age has finally caught up with Q-Tip. The Renaissance is at least the fourth album that the mercurial leader of the pioneering rap group A Tribe Called Quest has recorded in the past decade, but only the second to have been released. It feels timely: the hip-hop world has been transformed by those who owe a debt to Tribe, whether acknowledged (OutKast, Kanye West, the Roots) or not (Lupe Fiasco).
From the opening lines of Q-Tip’s newest classic, The Renaissance, it’s obvious that the Queens rapper knows just how important he is to the music and culture that is hip-hop. “And it’s up to me to bring back the hope, feeling in the music that you could quote” raps Q-Tip about the way things are now and how that old, soulful, and rich approach has been lost in the genre. Maybe it’s the fact that the group he co-founded, A Tribe Called Quest, was so impeccably compelling and thrilling, or maybe it’s the evident fact that as a proper MC, Kamal Fareed is one of the best of all time but whatever it is, The Renaissance is arguably, the best hip-hop album of the year.