I can't tell how much I like Q-Tip's, The Renaissance. It's good sure, but it's impossible to listen to without noting the elephant in the room: the fact that Q-Tip has been a.w.o.l. for most of the decade and y'know, that whole "centerpiece of one of the greatest groups of all-time" thing. So without contrasting it to the back catalogue, let's just leave it at that it's alternately clever, complex and fun; moreover, it feels right dropping during this weird, wonderful week.
Anchored by a half-dozen outstanding tracks (that co-exist with benign neo-soul soporifics), the greatest of the bunch is "Move," the lone J Dilla contribution. Measuring up to anything the pair ever cut, its first half sounds like a successful realization of what they'd intended to do on Tip's solo debut, the more uneven Amplified. It's an upbeat, dance-workout type track that nails the platonic ideal that Tribe always achieved: lyrical and hard-core enough for the dudes, blithe and bouncy for the ladies.
Yet its the latter half of the song, the part excised from its video that makes "Move," a petri dish of what makes both Dilla and the Q-Tip so special. With a flip of the beat, the sweaty rap-disco descends into an eerie whistling, subway banger. Gone is the pop sensibility flexed seconds earlier. In its stead is a younger, hungrier rhymer, Tip recounting his days murking chumps on the A Train line. The side of the Abstract that you never think about when you think about Tribe Called Quest, the days when he was a helium-voiced teenager eager to show and prove. There's a fierceness to the song that makes it much more than an exercise in nostalgia, the sort of greatness that leads you to believe that the album title isn't just bombast.
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