Q-Tip's 'Renaissance' Worth The Wait As leader of the 1990s hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip rose to fame on the strength of their jazz-influenced production and his smooth, unruffled rapping. After problems plagued his solo career, Q-Tip disappeared from the music scene. He has now resurfaced with an entirely new CD, The Renaissance.
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Q-Tip's 'Renaissance' Worth The Wait

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Q-Tip's 'Renaissance' Worth The Wait

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Music Reviews

Q-Tip's 'Renaissance' Worth The Wait

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Finally this hour, music from the rapper who became famous in the 1990s as the leader of the group A Tribe Called Quest. Q-Tip went solo with a 1999 album. It turned out to be his last officially released album. His label canned a 2002 follow-up. Now Q-Tip is back with a new CD called "The Rennaisance." Oliver Wang has this review.

(Soundbite of music)

OLIVER WANG: Throughout his 20-year career, Q-Tip has never been the most ferocious or gritty MC. But what he and A Tribe Called Quest excelled in, unerringly, was a song craft imbued with the emotional sophistication of a be-bop ballad, even when blasting out of car trunks.

(Soundbite of song "Electric Relaxation")

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST: (Rapping) Honey, check it out, you got me mesmerized, With your black hair and your fat thighs. Street poetry is my everyday But yo, I gotta stop when you trot my way If I was workin at the club you would not pay...

WANG: The better moments on Q-Tip's new album, "The Renaissance," recall that particular magic, a unity of soul-soothing music and Q-Tip's distinctive presence as the everyman poet with a touch of street swagger.

(Soundbite of song "Gettin' Up")

Q-TIP: (Rapping) Walking thru the corridors of my mind, The hideaways, the nooks, and thangs with good times, Memories certainly, yes they still bind. Still a common man, and yeah, that's for sure, Still a bankroll, and yeah, still can tour. But, man, this thing that we had was much more. Come back home, don't be out in the world, It's a bad place and no place for a girl. And most scavengers have found the pretty pearl. It's for the faint of heart who never get enough, Gotta get tough, buckle 'em up, we call 'em duds. And we, and we, and we, ahhh, We gotta, Getting' up. We gotta, Getting' up.

WANG: "The Rennaisance" is a compelling, though sometimes uneven, pastiche of several styles drawn from Q-Tip's years in exile. That includes echoes from his unreleased, but leaked, 2002 album, "Kamaal the Abstract." It was a challenging, ambitious effort that his label deemed commercially impractical. "The Renaissance" sustains some of that experimental spirit, with less conventional songs, a live band, and Q-Tip singing instead of rapping.

(Soundbite of Q-Tip song)

Q-TIP: (Singing) Oh, yeah. Well the bell is rung because the time is here. Oh, yeah. We got to switch it around and put the thing in gear. Oh, yeah. Not much is for show, but this is true. Oh, yeah. I got do it for me, but then I'll do it for you.

WANG: On other tunes it's reassuring to hear that, unlike many of his peers, age has actually sharpened Q-Tip's agility as a rapper. He favors terse couplets and a staccato delivery. His signature pinched voice artfully plays with and against the peaks and pockets of the album's rhythms.

(Soundbite of song "Won't Trade")

Unidentified Man: When asked about the trade rumors, He simply replied that he's just here to produce, Put forth the best effort for his team.

Unidentified Singer: Now that I know what it is, sport.

Q-TIP: (Rapping) You can put your money on a sure thing, Certain profits let it ring, Ceremonies of the ringer and the White House wing. Clear your mantle. The trophey's up there. Do you want to trade?

Unidentified Singer: I wouldn't trade it for nothing.

Q-TIP: (Rapping) Because in the end, as a teammate, You're looking for a back shoot. (Unintelligible) on the floor, Always within the score. Kept us in the locker room. This is why you sing the song.

Unidentified Singer: I wouldn't trade it for nothing.

WANG: Coming off a long hiatus, Q-Tip has to compete against both the contemporary pop landscape and fans' nostalgia for A Tribe Called Quest. At their best, his songs can elicit an emotional response that transcends the boundaries of time and genre. It may have taken him nearly ten years to remind us of that, but even when Q-Tip's not on schedule, he still manages to sound on time.

(Soundbite of song "Believe")

Q-TIP: (Rapping) Believe in your friends, Don't believe in your enemies. Mountains of doubt Just believe what's in front of you. Truth's on the other side, What you going to do?

BLOCK: Oliver Wang writes about music for the LA Weekly, Vibe, and Soul-Sides.com. He was reviewing the album by Q-Tip called "The Rennaisance."

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