Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2009 release from the acclaimed rapper and former member of A Tribe Called Quest. This long-delayed album, slated originally for release in 2001, is finally dropping! A musical hybrid, Kamaal was commendably avant-garde at the time of its creation. Amazingly, it's even more apropos in 2009; given the dearth of musical merit and capable MCs in today's Hip Hop, the time is ever-so-right for Tip. Kamaal the Abstract is an intensely idiosyncratic and revealing record. To that end, Q-Tip produced the entire album himself, even playing several instruments. What comes from Kamaal is daring mélange of Soul, supa-cool Jazz, head-nodding Hip Hop, and organic Pop magic in the vein of Stevie Wonder or Prince.
"Hip-hop veteran Q-Tip's second solo offering is a far cry from the slick beats and sticatto rhymes of 1999's Amplified. The album, Kamaal the Abstract, is a genre-defying blend of nü-jazz, '70s soul, rock, and funk; "Abstractionisms," featuring Grammy-nominated alto sax player Kenny Garrett, is the only track that even comes close to the Q-Tip we all know. The rapper evokes the Prince of yesteryear on the smooth "Blue Girl" and the jammy "Do U Dig U," which features contempo jazz-maker Gary Thomas on flute and sax and up-and-comer Kurt Rosenwinkle on guitar. Thomas's flute ripples over and in between the track's programmed beats like a butterfly lost in a concrete metropolis while Rosenwinkle's guitar buzzes and grinds on the horizon. The album's surprises are plenty: the urgent "Barely In Love" is a pulsing funk-rocker while the piano interlude "Caring" is startling in its simplicity - if only for the sheer fact that Q-Tip is singing. Elsewhere, "Even If It Is So" and the guitar-driven "Feelin'" are downright contagious. With Kamaal, one of hip-hop's finest has once again redefined his game - and upped the ante for the whole hip-hop genre in the process." -SlantMagazine
Billboard (p.28) - "KAMAAL THE ABSTRACT finds Q-Tip not only rhyming in his trademark nasal cadence, but also singing -- and surprisingly well to boot."
Personnel: Kamaal Fareed (vocals, keyboards, synthesizer, mini-Moog synthesizer, drums, bells, drum programming, background vocals); Sun Singleton, Aisha Morris (vocals); Guyora Kats (guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, Clavinet, background vocals); Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar, keyboards); Chris Sholar (guitar, background vocals); Kelvin Sholar (piano, Fender Rhodes piano, organ, synthesizer); Jonathan Blake (drums).
Audio Mixers: Steve Souder; Q-Tip.
Photographer: Danny Clinch.
A personal, unique project compared to AMPLIFIED (Q-Tip's first under his own name), KAMAAL THE ABSTRACT fittingly sounds more like a solo album; whereas AMPLIFIED merely built on the digital soul of the last Tribe Called Quest album (THE LOVE MOVEMENT), this one is wide-ranging and diverse, a relaxed, loose-limbed date. Q-Tip lays way back on these cuts, rapping in a quick, low monotone for the opener, "Feelin'," even while the song breaks into some restrained guitar grind on the choruses. Guitars, in fact, crop up all over this record. Setting aside comparisons to the contemporary record by N.E.R.D. (the rock side project of hip-hop super-producers Neptunes), Q-Tip crafted a record that pays homage to the last gasp of organically produced mainstream pop in the '70s and '80s, paying a large compliment to Prince and Stevie Wonder, even as he proves himself far more talented than D'Angelo (if not quite as soulful). The beats are pointed and clipped, to be expected on a Q-Tip record, but he allows plenty of space for the arrangements to speak, like the trim trumpet lines pacing "Even if It Is So" or allowing plenty of room for extended blowing from a flute on the warm, pastoral "Do You Dig You." The former is one of the best tracks here, Q-Tip introducing his story song with a fluid, ten-second speed-rap that says more about the plight of the single mother he adores than any other rapper could with an entire album. This wasn't the kind of record to light up the charts--which could account for the fact it didn't appear on the shelves in late April 2002, as expected, and only finally got an official release in 2009-- but in many ways it's superior to Q-Tip's debut.
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