Q-Tip The Renaissance

Q-Tip The Renaissance
It’s been nine years since Q-Tip dropped his debut solo outing, Amplified, after the shocking dissolution of A Tribe Called Quest in 1998. In the intervening years, Q-Tip has endured the shelving of at least two albums and been on virtually every major record label. Despite this, Q-Tip’s ongoing relevance and increasing stature have only risen and proof positive was in the sheer adulation the A Tribe Called Quest reunion that headlined this summer’s Rock The Bells tour generated. Therefore, on The Renaissance’s opening salvo, "Johnny Is Dead,” the veteran MC is justified when he queries, "What good is an ear if a Q-Tip isn’t in it?” Not only are the jazz-infused organic hip-hop bounce and piercing snares that underscored his finest work present but he’s found a syncretic balance by fleshing out the arrangements with vibrant live instrumentation and his vocals. Q-Tip’s classic flow nestles comfortably in between the grooves on ear candy like the aspirational "Gettin’ Up.” Similar themes of progress, unity and positivity, and the struggle to reach and maintain these values are inherent in The Renaissance, demonstrated by "Life Is Better,” with its beguiling Norah Jones preamble, and "We Fight/Love” featuring Raphael Saadiq. Anyone familiar with Q-Tip’s now 20-year-long career knows these topics have been inherently broached in his music but by drawing on Obama’s voice to open "Shaka” and releasing his album on the U.S. election day, he’s clearly making a compelling and worthy case for his ongoing validity in the future.

With many newer artists pointing to you and A Tribe Called Quest as inspirations do you think it’s a particularly good time to return?
Well, I think it’s a good time not only because of that but just because where everything is at environmentally. People like Common and Kanye, all these people who [are] of that ilk, those type of folks who are active, they’re kind of like offshoots of what we did with Tribe. So in a way our legacy kind of still goes, if you can call it a legacy. But what we did still kind of lives through them.

What inspired you to use Barack Obama’s voice on this new album on "Shaka”?
Well, Barack is an inspiration, just because of his whole point of view, his whole approach. I think the fact that he’s young and he seems to have new ideas — there’s an energy around him. And there’s an honesty and earnestness to him that galvanizes. And he’s a great speaker.

You’ve called this album The Renaissance and you’ve formed a group with Common called the Standard. Both these titles are kind of weighty. Why do you feel you can take [that] on?
It’s not that I can take it on. It’s for you to take it on because everything is so light and non-substantive. I feel like themes that carry weight are good, so when people hear those titles that sound grandiose and big they can dig in to see what’s the history on them, what things we’re eyeing up with the titles and stuff like that rather than, I don’t know, name it something that’s frivolous. Plus, it’s a big undertaking and it’s a lot for the people that do it to live up to. It’s just a moniker to keep you on a path that’s strident. (Universal Motown)