Q-Tip, hip-hop’s former golden boy (before Mos Def, who’s also gone AWOL), has long been the abstract poet. His Amplified disc hit, then faded away at the turn of the century, and few fans know about his solid shelved albums (Kamaal The Abstract and Open; download ’em).
His sporadic rap career left so many questions, and this disc only provokes more: is that a dis of rising Gotham producer Scram Jones on track two? Is André 3000 underachieving here or just revisiting the dandy fun of Love Below’s Behold A Lady? Is D’Angelo ever going to return to us for more than one promising guest appearance a year? All still unknown.
What I do know about this album: the beats are fresh, and Q-Tip’s buttery, bubbly voice could read the phone book and still sound pleasing. Actually, it sounds like he tore pages out of his Low End Theory rhyme book for these 17 stream-of-consciousness slices of jazzy ummah funk, some necessary substance for this ring-tone-rap age. And the swirling Black Boy and 100-plus-bpm jazz grenade Passes You By is weirder and more insightful than almost anything Lil Wayne’s done between Georgia… Bush and Misunderstood.