It’s been a long time since A Tribe Called Quest released their classic album, The Low End Theory. Being that hip hop fans today seem to not like the jazz-infused sound that made Tribe one of hip hop’s greatest groups, it came as a bit of a surprise that Q-Tip, the more well known member of the group was finally set to release a follow up to his highly successful solo debut, Amplified. The thing is, Amplified is older than 106 and Park, and most young hip-hop fans simply don’t remember it. This makes the title of Q-Tip’s latest project, The Renaissance, even more fitting. This project not only serves as a rebirth in terms of Q-Tip’s career, but in terms of reintroducing fans to a sound that categorized not only Tribe’s sound, but also the sound that defined the so-called “Golden Age” of hip hop.
For the uninformed, the “Golden Age” is known as the period between 1987 and 1995. The period is regarded as hip-hop’s most successful time, mainly artistically, as it featured some of the genres most defining albums.
Enough of the history lesson, though. The big question is this: does Q-Tip provide a classic album without conforming to the demands of the current mainstream environment. I will say that the album provides the same classic sound as ATCQ’s classic albums.
I was also pleased to see that Q-Tip hadn’t fallen prey to current trends the way others have in an attempt to stay relevant. The jazz-infused sound that many come to expect from Q-Tip is ever present throughout this album, and the few-featured artists on the album only add to that trademark sound.
There is a bit of a problem with that, though. With the jazz-heavy production seems to overpower Q-Tip’s somewhat high-pitched delivery. This wasn’t enough to take away from the experience of listening to The Renaissance. Tip’s bouncy, yet thought provoking lyrics seem to invite us into a laid back hip-hop lecture.
If anybody loves to see an old school cat put out an album, its me. The problem with that is how these veteran rappers have felt, and succumbed to, the pressure to stay relevant. Older rappers are typically pushed out of the industry because they don’t appeal to the demographic that the label is selling to.
There is also the message that the throwback MC is trying to convey to the public, and how the executives at major labels only want a particular type of artist on their roster.
Thankfully, Q-Tip has had a rebirth of sorts with The Renaissance, and hopefully the quality of this project will inspire other artists to return to take back hip hop from the corporate machine.