"The Renaissance" by Q-Tip

Q-Tip
The Renaissance

Universal Motown Records Group
2008

Review

On Q-Tip's second official release he manages to push his legacy forward while acknowledging the work that has defined him perhaps up until now.

Sometimes I phase out when I look at the screen and I think about my chance for me to intervene
and it's up to me to bring the hope
put feeling back in the music that you can quote

That is what opens "The Renaissance" and is pretty much what Q-Tip does. I think that Q-Tip would like to stand out on his own without constantly being compared against the legacy he is a part of because of his work with A Tribe Called Quest. He says so much on the first track of this album, "Johnny Is Dead" where he talks about how people always bring up Tribe but how he wants to offer you something new.

Well, new he gives. Q-Tip goes for a more instrumental sound here. Drums, pianos/keyboard, guitars, bass and a moment or two of synthesizer are par for the course. Q-Tip also takes it upon himself to sing in many a song chorus (Why didn't "Kamaal The Abstract" come out?). Samples and scratches are sparse on the album with a few exceptions. This is the sort of album that you'd love to see performed live with an actual band.

Lyrically, Q-Tip is Q-Tip. This album attempts to be more soulful than his last effort "Amplified" and frankly works better for me than that album did. I know, it's practically blasphemy to say so given that J-Dilla was a huge part of the production on the last album. It's just that I am feeling the soulful, more laid back feel on this record more than I do the dance floor anthems that were on the last. Plus, Q-Tip is so much more of what I view to be himself on this album. This album is - however - a logical extension of the work done on "Amplified" - albeit with a focus on more laid-back soulful grooves, vocal choruses and tighter, more distinguished lyricism.

The standout track for me is "You". This track flips the "It's not you it's me" line to great effect. Musically I think you could slow the track down and switch out the rapping on it and it would be right at home on an electronic record - with its reverb-heavy bass line and haunting keyboard sample.

His collaborations with Raphael Saadiq and D'Angelo are also highlights for me and work much better than his collabo with Norah Jones.

Q-Tip has put out an an album heavy on the live instrumentation and soul influences and it suits him (and me) just fine. The Tribe influence is apparent and even acknowledged ("Dance On Glass") but I for one am just glad that Q-Tip is attempting to bring something different to hip-hop. Like he says on "Johnny Is Dead", "What good is an ear if a Q-Tip isn't in it?"

4.417 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Johnny Is Dead (03:01) 5
2. Won't Trade (02:41) 5
3. Gettin' Up (03:17) 4
4. Official (03:18) 4
5. You (03:01) 5
6. We Fight/We Love (04:47) 5
7. ManWomanBoogie (03:05) 4
8. Move (05:49) 5
9. Dance on Glass (03:01) 5
10. Life Is Better (04:41) 3
11. Believe (02:56) 5
12. Shaka (03:30) 3