Q-Tip - The Renaissance

Posted November 3, 2008
Tags: Q-Tip,

The other night I ran into an old girlfriend. It’d been a bad break-up, mostly because she...

The Renaissance Album Review

The other night I ran into an old girlfriend. It’d been a bad break-up, mostly because she was that dangerous combination of beautiful and crazy. Still, any ill will I had towards her was long gone. Instead, I preferred to remember the good times. Unfortunately, the years had not been kind to my ex, her curves had rounded out and she had lost some of her once entrancing confidence, so after some awkward talk we said goodbye. As I walked away, I couldn’t help but wish I’d never seen her again; my memory of her had been so much better.

Later that night I got home and saw Q-Tip's new album, The Renaissance, waiting in my mailbox, and I started to feel the same way I had with my ex. I fell in love with hip-hop thanks to Tip’s legendary rhymes with A Tribe Called Quest. If this new album wasn’t very good, would it cloud my memories of all the good times? It’d been almost a decade since his Tip’s last solo album (his label had refused to release his second album), what if he had lost something? Still, what if The Renaissance was just that, a revival of some of the best hip-hop moments of my life? So as I put the album into my stereo I was nervous, nervous that what I was about to hear would be the hip-hop version of my declining ex-girlfriend. And yes, these are the things I think about.

Five minutes into The Renaissance I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Renaissance is a solid album with a few slips, but fans will be so glad to hear Tip back they’ll gladly overlook any mistakes. Look no further than Gettin’ Up. A mellow track that floats over a live bass line and an unexpectedly soft piano melody, Gettin’ Up is a “let’s get back together” track ode to his special lady. Tip’s delivery, a nasal drawl that’s so smooth it makes silk seem rough, is in full form on Gettin’ Up with lines like “I like to watch everybody gravitate towards you.” But it was always his lyrical creativity that set him apart (and earned him the name Abstract). Time hasn’t dulled Tip’s tongue. Renaissance starts off on a high note with Johnny Is Dead, a track whose echoing guitar-laden at first had me nervous that Tip had gone experimental. While Johnny is certainly surprisingly rocky, rhymes like “what good is an ear if Q-Tip isn’t in it” prove the man hasn’t lost a lyrical step. We can’t go back to the Tribe’s good ol’ days, but The Renaissance is a continuation of that same musical legacy.

Now that we’ve got that much deserved praise out of the way, let’s take a more objective look at The Renaissance. I’m not one of those elitist few who think that if you didn’t listen to Tribe than you don’t know “real” hip-hop. Tip and his crew were only one of many that pushed the culture forward, and if jazzy rhythms and staccato rhymes aren’t your thing, then that’s fine by me (I feel you Lupe). Just take Life Is Better, a sparkling track featuring adult contemporary goddess Norah Jones. First of all, Norah’s voice is just too perfect for an ode to hip-hop. If there was ever a track made for Erykah Badu this was it. Second, Tip spends approximately one of Better’s five minutes actually rhyming, and when he does it’s inexplicably distorted. Better may have started off as a good idea, but somewhere along the way it took a wrong turn. I also have mixed feelings about Renaissance’s lead single Move. Tip proved he could move a party with his solo smash Vivrant Thing. Move’s up-tempo vibe puts it at least in the same ball park as Vivrant, but the track just doesn’t connect, flipping in mid-stream into an underground-esque lyrical display. I understand if Tip didn’t want to go back to the booty shaking ways of Vivrant, but I don’t see what good a Rennasiance is if you can’t dance to it.

Still, who cares? It’s a goddamn album from Q-Tip, and it’s dope. I mean, he even brought back D’Angelo (my pick for the most underrated soul singer of all-time) for the track Believe. So during your Obama victory party tomorrow – god willing – I couldn’t think of playing a better album to usher in America’s political renaissance than The Renaissance. Welcome back Q-Tip, it's good to see you again.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted November 3, 2008
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