ARTS & EVENTS
CD Review: Q-Tip, 'The Renaissance'
Washington Post Express, November 4, 2008
Written by Express contributor Alfredo Flores
Photo courtesy Universal/Motown
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST was about provoking thoughts and not producing club bangers, and its nasal-voiced leader, Q-Tip, seemed forced to come up with some on his last solo album, 1999's "Amplified." Even though the CD produced two mega-hits, "Vivrant Thing" and "Breathe & Stop," many hardcore hip-hop heads called the album too flashy, the rapper's vision thwarted by label demands. Ironically, Q-Tip's two solo follow-up albums were then rejected by his former label, Arista, which deemed them uncommercial. Which might explain why its taken nine years for "The Renaissance" to appear. The rapper's new label, Universal/Motown, has let Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, aka Kamaal the Abstract, just be Q-Tip, and he has gone back to his roots of using cerebral rhymes and classic samples fused with live instrumentation. "The Renaissance" has both the brain and the booty in mind, calling out in "Dance" that "all my people at the label want something to repeat / but all my people want something for the street." And the streets are happier for it. In the catchy disco-funk jam "Move," which is loaded with sci-fi sound effects and backed by a sample of the Jackson Five's "Dancing Machine," Q-Tip announces, "Renaissance won't quit moving cultures" and then asks, "Look at your watch / You know it's time for phat beats." The phatness comes from Sergio Mendes-esque Rhodes jazz keyboarding ("Believe," with awol R&B'er D'Angelo providing the soulful chorus), soulful piano loops ("Getting Up" and "Life Is Better" featuring Norah Jones), popping snare drums ("Shaka"), DJ scratches chopping up guitar chords ("Official"), upbeat piano chords, and a powerful drum sample ("ManWomanBoogie" with hip-hop poet Amanda Diva). Odes to the past are ever-present on "The Renaissance," not just in music, but in message, particularly "Move" and in "Life," where Q-Tip shows his appreciation to all the hip-hop greats — though it contains the somewhat awkward Jones verse, "Hip-hop is playing again / and it's banging too / and it's banging for you." Q-Tip's love for the old school is culminated in "Getting Up," which has the type of classic R&B piano sound that made hits for "Renaissance" guests stars D'Angelo and Raphael Saadiq (who's in "We Fight/We Love") in the 1990s, though the lyrics are a modern take on searching for love by sending out texts and e-mail. Q-Tip's mastery of inventive lyrical wordplay and bravado also course through "The Renaissance," with several fun boasts. He even has the gall to call his competition sea cows in "Dance on Glass": "Corny style rappers they lack the pedigree / they just a manatee / I'm unaffected / the whale / the hammerhead." Meanwhile, on "Move" he states, "You just like cold grits without the hot sauce" and on "Johnny Is Dead" asks, "What good is an ear if a Q-Tip isn't in it?"Indeed. » 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; with The Cool Kids and Pacific Division, Sun., Nov. 30, 7 p.m., $32.50; 202-265-0930. (U St.-Cardozo). Posted By Express at 8:08 AM on November 4, 2008.
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