Review: Q-Tip – “Work It Out” Single


As the record industry tries to get over its hip-hop hangover and looks for the next genre to exploit into cliche-ville, few artists have been sacrificed to the suits as publicly and regretfully as Q-Tip. Ever the industry observer, on Tip’s new single for Universal/Motown Records titled “Work It Out”, he takes notice:

“ONE-HITS / they do they little do / for just a day or two / but then they never last.

“RING-TONES / the labels cashin’ in / they think they gonna win / from this phe-nom-menon”

It’s been nearly eight years since Tip dropped his last solo LP, Amplified. While initially facing criticism because the tunes were (gasp!) dance-able, the album is now pretty much considered a classic–with J Dilla showing off what he can do with major label support.

But Q-Tip hasn’t spent the last 8 years blowing all that ATCQ dough and getting fat. He actually recorded 3 entire LPs that most fans have probably never heard. All of them (2002’s Kamaal the Abstract, 2004’s Open, and 2005’s Live at the Rennaissance) thankfully leaked to the internet before those mensa boys at the record labels decided to kill these various projects. The albums quickly developed a cult following (there is even an online petition to get the Kamaal the Abstract LP formally released).

Tip had clearly taken a different direction with his sound–opting for more instrumentation and self-sung hooks. Moreover, the tracks were anything but formulaic–often running into 7 minutes, with long instrumental solos. In my opinion, the results of this gutsy reinvention were brilliant. Tracks like “That’s Sexy” with Andre3000 of Outkast and “Barely in Love” showed off a new versatility for an already versatile artist, and a distinct Roy Ayers and Sly and the Family Stone influence. Some of Tip’s singing was lackluster, but overall it worked quite well.

Which brings us to the new single, “Work it Out.” That distinct new Q-Tip sound is certainly there and can serve as an introduction for those uninitiated to the prior leaked material.

This is an energetic track–the kind of song that you put at the top of a playlist; the kind of song that can change the trajectory of an otherwise boring morning commute.

The music is primarily driven by live drums and a simple, yet funky guitar lick that has come to be associated with Q-Tip’s new sound. A similarly simple, three-note piano melody compliments the track’s rhythm quite nicely, in a metronome-esque kinda way, that sounds like it’s actually being punched in on a sampler.

Ultimately, the song has that down-to-earth realness that makes Tip so endearing, and able to cross over to so many different audiences. His message is positive, the music is simple and happy. Perhaps listeners have already branded Q-Tip as the feel-good emcee, but there’s something about him that just oozes everyday-guy. It’s unpretentious and accessible.

The hook works well I think–though I can’t tell if it is Tip’s voice harmonized at various pitches or just some other female vocalist. Lyrically, there’s nothing special here, as he uses that “dictionary rap” style that will remind you of Tribe’s “Word Play” where the artist starts a line by throwing out a word, then elaborating on the its definition (see quotes above). Arguably, Tip has simpllified his rhymes since his Tribe days, but I haven’t really sat down to test that hypothesis, nor do I care much–it still does the trick. Again, it’s Tip’s message and aesthetics that make the music, not necessarily his lyrical gymnastics.

The track is now available on iTunes (go to the hip-hop section), and I highly recommend that you go check it out, if you can spare the 99 cents. 2007 has already seen yet another delay on Tip’s Motown project, but after hearing this you’ll be just as eagerly awaiting its final release as I will. History would suggest that I’m setting y’all up for disappointment by wetting the appetite here, but for some reason this time seems for real.


2 Responses to “Review: Q-Tip – “Work It Out” Single”

  1. Peter Squire Says:

    great return post/topic in Q-Tip…definitely unpretentious and accessible.

  2. Peter Squire Says:

    is this a track? this sounds awfully familiar (thinking if I’ve had it before)

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