Words by: Robyn Rubinstein
Q-Tip :: 10.10.07 :: The Independent :: San Francisco, CA
The post-band break-up solo project is a tricky proposition. It can prove that the erstwhile band was either a creative jump-off for artistic growth or the zenith of a career. It runs the risk of being ego-drenched and self-indulgent, which often results in disillusioned and depressed fans. I'm a firm advocate of a vocal boycott of the sub par solo project. Supporting third-rate efforts tacitly says, "It's okay if you put out crap, because I'll listen anyway. Now that you've won my hard earned attention from years of [insert previous band] I'm blindly, mindlessly and perhaps deafly in love with whatever you produce. So, go ahead dumb it down for me, you big bad rock star." Before Q-Tip took the stage at The Independent, I took a minute to mentally prepare myself. No matter how unimpeachably fabulous A Tribe Called Quest was, this might be total drivel. It took a few deep breaths and one drink, but I was ready. Thankfully, all my worries were for naught. It's a new day for Q-tip, and he is standing strong.
Another thing I firmly advocate is the well-honed hip-hop band. Q-Tip's accompanying musicians - Antwan Barrett (bass), Chris Sholar (guitar), Robert Glasper (keys) and DJ Scratch (turntables) - created a hard yet silky smooth palette that was one of the finest hip-hop bands I've heard in some time. They are one step past tight to well lubricated, all with abundant skills and intuitive playing styles. A Tribe Called Quest has always represented the fusion of jazz and hip-hop but this band brought that concept to literal fruition.
Q-Tip and keyboardist Glasper had a seemingly choreographed spat three songs in when Q-Tip thanked the audience for showing their love for Tribe and for hip-hop as a whole. "No, seriously, fuck that," Glasper said. "What about the jazz?" The band then broke into some of "Footprints," Wayne Shorter's signature tune, followed by a snippet of Coltrane's
"Giant Steps," which became the preamble for "Sucka Nigga," which to me, had never before sounded so full and potent. There were other Tribe classics like "Electric Relaxation," "Scenario" and "Award Tour," as well as some of Q-Tip's past strong solo work like "Vivrant Thing," "Higher" and "Breathe and Stop." He also introduced "Fever" and "Official," and while not entirely new will finally be released on his long-awaited next album, Renaissance, early in 2008.
| DJ Scratch|
The two primary highlights were DJ Scratch's lighting fast, meticulously precise DJ solo, which exhibited his showmanship as well as his turntable chops. The second came during "Check the Rhime" when Q-Tip declared that he was tired of singing the song alone and did anyone female want to come up and sing it with him. Normally, this kind of thing irritates the hell out of me. I don't go to shows to see Joe or Jill Random get on stage and flail like a giggling idiot in the presence of his or her musical hero. In spite of that, I have to admit that if there was ever a time when I wanted to be the giggling idiot on stage, this was it. However, Q-Tip chose well when he pulled Serena from East Oakland up. Plain and simple, she killed it. I was definitely impressed, and just a smidge envious. In spite of my white girl ability to rock the mic, I'm sure that Serena's skills far surpassed mine.
In Q-Tip's case, there is no fear of the mundane solo project sullying his reputation. His latest effort shows that he can pay homage to his past successes while still evolving into a new phase of cool.
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