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.

Shea Serrano on Q-Tip's The Renaissance in the Village Voice.

Buy The Renaissance


MP3: Q-Tip-“Move”

MP3: Q-Tip ft. Camp Lo-”Gettin’ Up (Remix)”

LA Weekly