Published Nov 17, 2008Its 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-Tips 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 summers Rock The Bells tour generated. Therefore, on The Renaissances opening salvo, "Johnny Is Dead, the veteran MC is justified when he queries, "What good is an ear if a Q-Tip isnt in it? Not only are the jazz-infused organic hip-hop bounce and piercing snares that underscored his finest work present but hes found a syncretic balance by fleshing out the arrangements with vibrant live instrumentation and his vocals. Q-Tips 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-Tips now 20-year-long career knows these topics have been inherently broached in his music but by drawing on Obamas voice to open "Shaka and releasing his album on the U.S. election day, hes 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 its a particularly good time to return?
Well, I think its 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, theyre 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 Obamas 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 hes young and he seems to have new ideas theres an energy around him. And theres an honesty and earnestness to him that galvanizes. And hes a great speaker.
Youve called this album The Renaissance and youve formed a group with Common called the Standard. Both these titles are kind of weighty. Why do you feel you can take [that] on?
Its not that I can take it on. Its 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 whats the history on them, what things were eyeing up with the titles and stuff like that rather than, I dont know, name it something thats frivolous. Plus, its a big undertaking and its a lot for the people that do it to live up to. Its just a moniker to keep you on a path thats strident. (Universal Motown)