Q-Tip – Kamaal the Abstract

Q-Tip – Kamaal the Abstract

Q-Tip – Kamaal the Abstract

When A Tribe Called Quest decided to call it quits, many of us wept, including yours truly. Undoubtedly, as sad as it was, the group’s creative differences were too much to handle and when the dissention overwhelmed the fruition, it was time to call it quits. This created a void in hip-hop; one that would shoulder a heavy burden of shadowed darkness. The socially-conscious trio had left their grooving soul in search of greener pastures.

From this junction, Q-Tip (AKA Kamaal Fareed) took to developing his own solo career. And with Amplified, he extended his talents off the seminal group’s diverse palette of sounds. The first thing to realize about Kamaal the Abstract is that it is, in fact, Q-Tip’s second album as a solo artist. Recorded and then shelved after his excellent solo debut, perhaps it was the rapper’s drastic changes that caused the delay. And although The Renaissance showcased a bubbly and confident MC, there was always the need to give in to outstanding experimentation. So even though it’s taken a while – much too long in fact – there is good reason for anyone to rejoice.

There’s a much more relaxed and laid-back vibe to everything that Fareed is doing on this album. Fancying guitars and believe me, guitars show up a lot on this album, he righteously blends that with pointed beats and exercises in strength. Even when he is rapping, he sounds calm and buoyant; relying on soul singing and funky jamming beats. So much so that this belongs a lot more to the R&B/Neo-soul side of hip-hop; it’s a terrific way for the Queens rapper to showcase his impressive skill as a musical artist. Just look at the ending to “Blue Girl”, a song that’s mostly instrumental, this particular section reveals a gritty piano line accompanying a bitter and angry Q-Tip, MCing about girls that like to play games and at the end letting go, “Yeah, yeah, they’re birds.”

From here, “Barely in Love” stands out as one of the album’s finest cuts, brandishing lively percussion and dazzling catchiness. The guitars shake and sizzle, the hand taps wail away and the singers all sing in such fervent passion, it’s captivating. Choosing to play off his given name, he’s deliberately nodding to the brilliant pop of the 70s and 80s by way of a culturally rich suburb of the here and now. For this is what Kamaal the Abstract is all about: allowing the artist to explore his inner Prince or Stevie Wonder (take your pick.)

That isn’t to say that the album’s not filled with its moments of brilliant wordplay. Case in point would be “Even If It Is So” and the MC’s rapid spitting about a girl making her living the honest way, albeit at McDonald’s. Jazzy trumpets and a wistful sax riff invoke a sultry amount of breathy fresh air that it feels both important and much-needed. For even Q-Tip knows that one needs to explore new options, “Do U Dig U?” leaves nothing unscathed (flutes and all) as it is seven minutes of body-shaking, toe-tapping, head-nodding euphoria in the strictest sense.

I haven’t come across an album by Q-Tip that doesn’t entice and more so, that even disappoints. Like he and his group before, the ability to be greatly consistent is taken for granted far too often. As Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened.” For us, we have plenty to be glad about when someone as good as Q-Tip is still making music.

Battery Records