Q-Tip makes a comeback


POSTED: Friday, December 12, 2008

IF YOU BELIEVE in fate, then you can't be mad at Q-Tip for letting nearly a decade pass since his last studio release.






        In concert: Pipeline Cafe


Time: 10 p.m. Saturday


Tickets: Limited free admission wristbands available at DIG Lifestyles and Hawaii's Natural High


Call: 589-1999



It's not like he went anywhere. The New York-born rapper once known as Jonathan Davis (he's since converted to Islam and goes by Kamaal Ibn John Fareed) has logged guest appearances with Jay-Z, Mos Def, Missy Elliott, Kanye West, T.I. and a number of other artists since 1999's “;Amplified.”;

But fans were disappointed a few years ago when his sophomore solo effort, “;Kamaal the Abstract,”; wasn't released due to differences on the album's creative direction between Q-Tip and his label. Instead, he pushed musical boundaries by collaborating with R.E.M., The Chemical Brothers and Sergio Mendes.

Last month, “;The Renaissance”; arrived during a period of change in both the world of mainstream hip-hop and the United States in general. The Star-Bulletin spoke with Q-Tip earlier this week about the new album, the changes he's seen over the past two decades and the influence of A Tribe Called Quest on future generations of hip-hop artists and fans.

  QUESTION: “;The Renaissance”; came out on Nov. 4, the same day Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. Were you trying to make a political statement with this album?

ANSWER: I didn't plan on it. It just kind of happened.

But you know, I can say that the day he was elected president was the day I put out “;The Renaissance,”; which is a mighty, mighty thing for me ... (and) for all of us, for hip-hop.

Q: But you originally had a sample of an Obama speech on one of the tracks, right?

A: I had a song on there called “;Shaka,”; which uses an excerpt from one of his speeches. A lot of the stuff that's on the album is pointed towards what is going on in society.

So I felt it was just a timely piece, especially with this presidency. It's introspective, to make people think and feel encouraged. I try to make stuff like that.

Q: Do you think your music, or hip-hop in general, will become more political with President-elect Obama in the White House?

A: I don't know what's gonna happen. I hope it goes in a more thoughtful, introspective direction. Who knows, but I hope so.

Q: Two decades have passed since A Tribe Called Quest got its start in New York City. What's the biggest change hip-hop artists have had to deal with during that time frame?

A: The music business is disabling music. Innovation and creativity is not rewarded today, because people in the business have lost their way and continue to degrade it. They just want complacency.

I don't want to sound disgruntled, but ... you asked what the difference is, and that's what the difference is.

Q: Some of your more recent performances have been alongside up-and-coming groups like The Cool Kids and the Knux. What do you think of younger generations emulating the sound of classic 1980s and 1990s hip-hop?

A: It's cool, you know. As long as it's honest, and it seems like these kids are, so it's cool (and) I have no problem with it.

You just gotta think about the music. It's one thing to wear the trinkets, but it's really about the substance. If they're being honest, it's the right way. There's no blueprint. ... you just gotta be yourself.

Q: Is it true that Prince performed with you recently?

A: Yeah, when we was in Vegas he came on stage, grabbed a guitar and got down.

Q: Did you even recognize him when he came out?

A: Yeah, man. He's a big inspiration and influence on me.

Q: Will “;Kamaal the Abstract”; ever get released?

A: Yeah, it'll be out definitely next year. ... I'm going to have a major announcement of the date and everything.

I'm gonna do a big celebration and probably do three or four shows in different regions of the country where I'll perform it in its entirety. That's all I'm gonna say right now.





MySpace: Hip Hop


Q: I also heard you'll make an appearance on Grandmaster Flash's upcoming release.

A: Yeah, I did a song on his album. He's a legend. If it wasn't for Grandmaster Flash, this hip-hop thing wouldn't be where it's at.

He's like our Duke Ellington or Louie Armstrong. He's one of the founding fathers of the form.

Q: You've partnered with for “;The Release”; this weekend. What can fans expect?

A: It won't be like a full show, like I won't bring out my whole band, but I'll come out and do a few songs, and hopefully, people will be into it. It'll be my first time there.