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FEATURE: Q-Tip:Born Again

Q-Tip sounds 18 again. Judging from early releases off his second official solo album, The Renaissance, the Queens MC sounds rejuvenated. [Editor’s Note: 2002’s Kamaal The Abstract was never released]

Having lead A Tribe Called Quest to five critically-acclaimed gold records in the 90s, Tip was expected to carry the group’s momentum into his solo career. Yet, his solo debut, 1999’s Amplified, though commercially successful, was heavily heckled by the underground gallery. Sure, the album was mostly co-produced by subterranean champion J Dilla, but Hype Williams’ cliche big booty treatment on videos for “Vivrant Thing” and “Breathe and Stop” were just too much for some Tribe loyalists to bear.

Tip spent the following years observing the industry’s tumultuous climate changes while attentively crafting his follow-up album. Finally, nine calendars after his last official release, the Abstract is back sounding quite vintage.

Tip spoke to XXLMag.com to discuss hip-hop’s generational gap, an upcoming Tribe documentary and the shady differences between the record business and Hollywood.

XXL: There’s lot of talk about hip-hop’s generational gap as of late. When you meet these younger artists, what kind of conversations do you have with them if any?

Q-Tip: I don’t know. It’s probably a bump into rather than a sit down conversation.

XXL: Some of the younger guys complain that there’s no dialogue between the two generations. So, given the opportunity to speak to younger guys like a Soulja Boy, what would you tell them?

Q-Tip: Basically, you gotta know the history of it. You gotta understand where it came from. You gotta have an open ear. You gotta listen to all sorts of different things. Just those things about the history and the passion for it. The willingness to have an open mind in terms of creativity, experimenting. Just that type of stuff.

XXL: Your album is entitled The Renaissance. Are you hoping to spark the same type of progressive movement that took place during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s?

Q-Tip: I hope that my album will be the first in a series of albums that will aid to a kind of renaissance. I think it already started. From a Lupe Fiasco, to Santogold, to Kanye, to Common. It’s starting to happen.

XXL: The climate has changed since you first talked about releasing The Renaissance. There’s a lot of talk about the cycle getting back to good music. Did you hold your album by design, or does it happen to be dropping in a more fitting climate?

Q-Tip: It was by design. I had to choose the best time and how, cause I have a lot of work to do. I’m basically a new artist. Plus I’m blessed that I’m still being viewed as such. Like, I’m still able to get a look. For instance, Masta Ace, his last couple of albums were crazy. They were really dope. But because we’re from that era, people may have viewed him as whatever, whatever and he’s not getting a chance today. I could have easily fell into that group. I see people like Immortal Technique, or somebody like Cool Kids who are getting a lot of attention now. It’s really encouraging to see that. So, in a way I was like, “I think it’s gon turn.” When I saw Kanye doing his thing and Common. These cats are coming from my perspective and they making noise. So, aight! It’s softening up a little bit. Then you go on tour. When we get these shows and see the people coming are fucking with it. It’s just a testament to the tide turning.

XXL: You just said you consider yourself a new artist. How so?

Q-Tip: I feel like it’s a new invention happening. I feel like people like Miles Davis and other musical forms I’ve experienced.

XXL: Nas and Michael Rapaport are working on a Tribe Called Quest documentary. How is the group going to be depicted in the film?

Q-Tip: I think this is gonna be the first motion picture, documentary done on a hip-hop group, which is an honor. ‘Cause I wanted to do one years ago with Grand Master Flash and them, but Nas spoke to me a while ago and was like, “I want to shoot a documentary on you dudes.” Michael Rapaport saw us perform in LA and said the same thing, so they combined forces. They basically are shooting it. They got backstage footage.They got old archive stuff. They’ve been interviewing everybody. What’s that dude from Superbad?

XXL: Jonah Hill?

Q-Tip: Yeah! Apparently he’s a big Tribe fan. It’s weird cause they got everybody from him to Ghostface.It’s interesting. It’s gonna be their take or whatever. And there’s a part in the film where they follow Phife into a surgery for his kidney transplant. So, it’s a deep movie. They’ve been working on it for a while. They probably won’t be done until next year sometime. I guess they gon try to enter it in festivals. I spoke to Nas a couple of weeks ago and he’s been figuring out the plans, so he knows more about it.

XXL: You’ll be starring in Holy Rollers next year. That’s a five years after Spike Lee’s She Hate Me. Why such a long break?

Q-Tip: I’m doing roles here and there.I do want to get into it more. But it’s just about getting that right one. Hollywood is funny, you know what I mean. It’s very political. We’ll see.

XXL: You just said Hollywood is political. Your most famous line is arguably, “industry rule #4080, record company people are shady.” Who’s more shady, music industry people, or movie business people?

Q-Tip: They’re different types of shady. Like, record companies are just like…I don’t know. They’re both pretty fake. The thing about Hollywood is they’re more ass kissers. The record companies are more move fakers. They like to pass blame on everybody for everything cause everything is fucking up more. In Hollywood, everybody likes to take credit. Those are the differences I guess. –Carl Chery

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