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Q Tip The Renaissance Album Review

Updated on May 2, 2009

Who is Q-TIP?

Welcome back, Kamaal Ibn John Fareed.

We’ve missed you.


Fareed, better known as Q-Tip, the visionary leader of the pioneering collective A Tribe Called Quest, is back to save hip-hop from itself and spice up parties everywhere, with his newest slice of old-school heaven called The Renaissance.

The Renaissance is Q-Tip’s first solo release since his gold-selling debut album Amplified hit the streets back in 1999, a year after ATCQ folded its tent and its members headed in different directions.

Why so long between solo releases for the mighty Tip?

First, there are his considerable production skills that seem to keep his Blackberry constantly on blow-up mode. Then there’s his acting gig which has him on the move when Hollywood calls.

And when A Tribe Called Quest got back together in 2006, Tip was right there front and center with his old homies from the Native Tongues Posse, another reason why nearly a decade has passed between his solo outings.

Then there’s also the little matter of the so-called brain-trust at his record label that canned the release of his 2002 album, Kamaal The Abstract, along with at least one other disc he recorded. According to rumors, his label may have squashed a total of three of Tips’ albums.

And if any of those other detained discs are half as good as The Renaissance, shame on the record label for depriving us.

Here’s hoping those “lost discs” too, will see the light of day sometime soon.

Because The Renaissance is the kind of blockbuster than true hip-hop fans have been waiting for since the dawn of the new millennium.

The kind of disc that fits perfectly in a dark room with a pair of headphones, or just as well on a spectacular sunny afternoon on a crowded beach.


Q-TIP - Deeper


Mature beyond its years, The Renaissance is a concise classic, one that moves through its 43-plus minutes much too quickly. It’s an album that can hold one’s attention from start to finish, unlike a lot of today’s hip-hop discs that, at best, might feature one or two strong cuts, the rest stuffed with filler.

Less pop-sounding than Amplified, The Renaissance moves and grooves along, guided by the rich sounds of Fender Rhodes and vintage-sounding keyboards.

Just what you’d expect from Tip, who recorded his first album way back at the tender age of 19.

Love is the central theme that binds the 12 tracks on this disc together, although Tip has not totally forgotten the politics that and cultural awareness that made ATCQ such a force back in the day.

A great example of this is “We fight-Love” with guest star Raphael Saadiq. Against a backdrop of love lost in a wave of constant fighting, where everyday life gets in the way, a soldier in Iraq looks to find out who he really is, amidst the bombs and guns in a place where he is not wanted.

Saadiq was an excellent choice for this track and gives the chorus a blast of warm soul that offers a solution to stop the fighting, at home and across the sea, by taking the time to stop and chat about our problems.

Tip never was one to dabble in the same old beats that dominate most hip-hop and that doesn’t change one bit on The Renaissance.

Preferring a jazz-like canvas to paint on instead of the standard funk commonly used, Tip fires strong from the outset with the album opener “Johnny is Dead.” Rattling along with a bed of pulsating bass with some tasty guitar licks woven throughout, “Johnny is Dead” gets the seamless disc off to flowing start.

In addition to Saadiq, D'Angelo makes an appearance on “Believe,” and one of the bright new lights on the jazz scene, Norah Jones, lends her husky vocals to “Life is Better.”

But make no mistake, Q-Tip is the star of this show.

“Move,” which comes to life with a Jackson 5 cut-and-paste in the back, gives Tip a platform to channel a rave about his early days in the game, back in his old Queens’ stomping grounds.

But Tip has come a long ways from those days back in the borough.

Coincidence or not, The Renaissance was released the exact day that the United States elected its first black president in this county’s long history.

So by chance or by charm, Nov. 4, 2008 now can claim doubly-special meaning.

Though with the way Kamaal Ibn John Fareed operates, there’s little chance that anything is left to mere coincidence.

Should you have another album you have in mind to be reviewed, please leave me some feedback and I will add that on my list.



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