In late 1999, Q-Tip released his solo debut, the chart-topping Amplified. The album transformed the former Tribe Called Quest frontman from a pillar of soulful, Afrocentric consciousness into a purveyor of Puffy-esque misogynistic nonsense. If Amplified's flavor-of-the-month, jiggafied beats, and racy lyrics shocked longtime Tribe fans, then Kamaal the Abstract will do the same for completely different reasons. Tip's musical hero is Miles Davis, and it seems he hopes to mimic Davis' ability to single-handedly create a new style of music by taking dramatic sonic detours. Miles was often vilified for his quirkiness, though, and although Tip should get credit for having bravado, he too should also take some heat.
Q-Tip, who has taken up piano and bass in the last year, started work on Kamaal with his new band, Rose. It consists of a handful of young jazz upstarts, and at times, the result creates a unique blend of jazz, folk, soul, and hip hop. "Abstractionism," which features saxophonist Kenny Garrett, brings in the bounce of Amplified, but with a heap of musical and lyrical departures from the norm. These improv styles, however, can yield meandering music that is just downright boring. On "Do U Dig U," Q-Tip sings the chorus repeatedly for four minutes amidst an agitating drum machine loop and flute. He asks, "Did U hit the bong?" No, but I think I know who might have.
As one of the forefathers of jazzy, conscious hip-hop, Q-Tip has earned the right to push the envelope. But given the lack of patience in today's commercial musical marketplace, Tip should really keep Timbaland's phone number nearby.
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