After eight years in recording purgatory, Q-Tip pulls a Rocky Balboa with "The Renaissance," his first officially released disc since 1999's "Amplified."
Q-Tip's new album has been a long time coming, but don't tell him that it's one of the best comebacks in hip-hop history. "I just look at it as an album," he says. "Some people see it as a comeback; that's just everybody else's impression. But mine is that it's just my next record."
Nearly heroic in nature, "The Renaissance" is a triumph, considering the shelving of two highly publicized discs, "Kamaal/The Abstract" (2002) and "Open." He claims the title refers to great upheavals within hip-hop, not his own re-blossoming career.
"I just wanted to have a renaissance of sorts on my album that had those elements that were missing from hip-hop," such as thought-provoking lyrics and musicality, he explains.
As he embarks on his 2K Sports Bounce nature tour to promote "The Renaissance," which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Rap Album Chart and No. 11 on the Billboard 200, the 37-year-old rapper acknowledges that he has to reintroduce himself to an audience that quickly disposes history for the new.
"I'm accepting of it; I'm happy that I'm able to reinvent myself," he says.
"The Renaissance" isn't quite a reinvention, though. Self-produced with cherry-picked guests like Raphael Saadiq, D'Angelo, Amanda Diva and Norah Jones, the disc is quintessential Q-Tip that shows him not pandering to current trends of hip-hop like the ubiquitous use of the Auto-Tune.
Instead, the disc highlights his signature nasally tenor, jaunty rhymes and philosophical verses against jazz-infected soundscapes. It's a maturation of a sound that dates back to when he fronted A Tribe Called Quest more than a decade ago, and picks up on the gutsy experimentation that made "Kamaal/The Abstract" such a beloved bootleg classic.
So Q-Tip isn't merely back in the game; he's at the top of it. As for his legacy, he's aware that the game itself would be entirely different without him.
"I guess I see myself as someone who's been here for a while, an elder statesman, if you would. And I welcome that, because I've seen a lot and been through a lot."
--John Murph, Express (Nov. 2008)