Monday, September 28, 2009

New (old) Q-Tip

So after having gone underground for some nine years, Q-tip releases his second album in less than a year, after the aptly titled The Renaissance hit shelves and ears everywhere last November. One could argue though that the new one, Kamaal the Abstract (Kamaal is his adopted Islamic name), isn't all that new, as people have been eagerly expecting it since 2001/02, when it was originally set to be released but was canned by his then label Arista. In the last few years he's gotten control of the rights to the album, re-mastered it, and re-packaged it for its postponed entry into the world.

I'll back up a minute and say that The Renaissance was one of my favorite albums of last year, and I can still spin and enjoy it as much as when I first listened last December. For listeners expecting something following along in the same vein, you're going to be disappointed if you don't come with open ears and mind. In some ways, if you don't intellectually place it in its proper chronological spot, this album will sound like an unconnected musical outgrowth compared to last year's album. You've got to remember that besides the re-mastering (and one additional cut - Make It Work), this album was conceived of and created roughly eight years ago. I know that I had to remind myself of that while initially scoping out this new one.

Kamaal The Abstract experiments across a wide spectrum of sounds and styles, almost to the point where it starts to come apart as a singular entity for me. Sure you've got the hip hop lyricism that Q-Tip pulls from with his time with A Tribe Called Quest, that's almost a given. But you'll also kind some material here that feels more like avant garde jazz, with instruments coming in and out, almost improvisationally. Abstractionisms, the album's seventh track combines the two, along with some guitar work that will leave you scratching your head wondering where it came from. Then there's Heels, a song that feels like a Red Hot Chili Peppers' number. Then you'll find a piano ballad buried at the tail end of the album with Caring. Honestly, Q-Tip was really pushing the envelope when he gave birth to this album, which could explain why Arista had originally shelved it without giving it a chance on the sales floor. Regardless, it's now out of the bag and available for people to see where and how Q-tip was developing after setting out on his own.

takin' it back...

Visit his website, his label Battery Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

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