Archive for the ‘A Tribe Called Quest’ Category

The In Crowd

May 6, 2008

It’s been a tough two weeks around my crib. Internet is acting a fool…or some related apparatus is. Whichever the case, my access to the WWW has been limited and unpredictable. I feel like one of my Constitutional rights is being violated here. I’m not sure how the Founding Fathers would have anticipated the Web, though.

At any rate, I feel like I’ve relegated to the Dark Ages. As far as I’m concerned, the Earth is flat; and the epicenter of the universe. That’s how I feel about music right now. Being that I refuse to listen to the radio, the internet has, for several years now, been my primary source for reading about and listening to new music. I DID actually try to listen to the radio today while I drove to a meeting…I made it through about 17 seconds of what I presume was a Lil’ Wayne song featuring some up-and-coming crooner who I don’t know about.

I don’t know where to start. I’ve spun through my ATCQ discography this week. I still maintain that Erykah’s New Amerykah is the hottest album of 2008. Max Kelleman of ESPNRadio (one of my other brief radio stops today) talked about Mobb Deep as “Shook Ones” played in the background. Him and whichever guy hangs in the studio with him curtly discussed what one has to do to be an “official Queens Bridge murderer.” Good question Max.

Okay. So new music. I just purchased Kidz in the Hall’s The In Crowd. I’ve yet to listened to it. Based on their first album, School Was My Hustle, and the two “mixtapes” that hit the internet, I’m looking forward to getting into this. Re School Was My Hustle – honestly, while I like it, only a portion of the album has any replay value for me. I’m hoping their second offering shows some learning/growth from their debut. I think Double-O has it in him to be a GREAT producer. Anyone who has copped it, thoughts?

CLE @ BOS. I’m out.

Peace and happy listening. Here’s to me sorting this internet out.

NOTE: I was just reminded that Al Green’s Lay It Down drops this month!

UPDATE, 05/08 – “The Black Out” is bangin’ inside my ear drum right now.

Time Machine: The Nonce’s “World Ultimate” (1995)

November 15, 2007

Right now I’m listening to The Nonce’s World Ultimate, and feel it necessary to give it its due props. Sure, in some circles it may be considered an underground classic, but I know there are some very knowledgeable hip hop fans who haven’t had the opportunity to listen to this. From experience in trying to get my hands on it, the album is out of print and your best bet is to scope Amazon or some other site that supports used record/CD sales. I’m sure internet savvy listeners can get their Sherlock Holmes on and find it online too.

Sonically, World Ultimate parallels a Digible Planets-Pharcyde tip. Members Nouka Basetype & Yusef Afloat handle all the production, as per my research. Like many producers from the early to mid-90’s, they utilize a rich blend of jazz samples, creating an extremely laidback sound. Generally, the album is without any hard drums (save for “West Is…” and maybe “Eighty Five,” but both still are low-key). Safe to say, you won’t have to worry about breaking any speakers while this album slips out of your system. Similar to the likes of ATCQ and Jungle Brothers, The Nonce feature some ridiculous basslines. “Mix Tapes,” the album’s lead single, is backed by a sturdy 1-2 combo from bass. Similarly, “Hoods Like To Play” sounds like it could blend nicely with Digible Planet’s “Rebirth of Slick.” And what would a mid-90’s album be without a horn loop? “Good to Go” sounds like a Diamond D beat (imagining Big L rippin’ it), with a horn dancing in and out, alternating in its presence throughout the track. The title track works as the album’s strongest in my opinion. It’s a little more playful compared to the rest of the album and is reminiscent of a Pharcyde track. I really dig the hook, which is simply “World, world, world ultimate” repeating; you have to hear it to appreciate it.

If you’re able to get your hands and ears on this (or if you have it and need to dust it off), do so tonight. With the consistent sound/production and relatively brief play time (@ 50 minutes), it’s easy to listen to from front to back.

Review: Q-Tip – “Work It Out” Single

August 30, 2007

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.