Amplified Review

September 5, 2009

d80162l0j8tArtist: Q-Tip

Album: Amplified

Released: November 23, 1999

Label: Arista

I have talked about A Tribe Called Quest Before, and this is a solo effort by one of the group’s three members.  Q-Tip, Kamaal the Abstract, and sometimes referred to as simply “the abstract rapper” followed A Tribe Called Quest’s 1998 breakup with his debut album Amplified a year later.  I use the album as my primary running music, but friends are skeptical as to that use.  I like to groove with my music while running instead of using it to push me forward forcefully, but to each her own.

Amplified personifies Q-Tip’s laid back abstract style masterfully with its cavernous grooves and staccato beats.  The first track “Wait Up” is aptly named, melding Q-Tip’s smooth flow with a faltering drums and jazz-reminiscent piano.  “Higher” takes the groove deeper and shows the rapper’s skill in both abstract material and classic hip hop swagger.  “Breathe and Stop” offers an even trippier and heavier beat, while “Moving With You” takes that confidence to the romantic level.  “Let’s Ride” offers an extremely intelligent jazz guitar riff that underlies Q-Tip’s chill atmosphere and lives up to its name as a cruising song.

The well-travelled hit of the album is “Vivrant Thing,” and is a true and tested hip hop ode to one amazing woman.  As a long time friend of A Tribe Called Quest and Native Tongues, Busta Rymes makes his appearance for “N.T.” a decidedly more intense song than the rest of the album.  “End of Time (ft. Horn) uses a strange fusion beat that makes it very difficult to describe and closes out Amplified on a note of new things to come from Q-Tip.  There’s also a hidden track, but I won’t spoil that surprise completely.

The combination of disjointed beats and the suave flow of Q-Tip are a perfect mix that was never captured on his two later albums, and although both are solid albums, neither one reached the level of Amplified.  Whether he was still coming off his high with A Tribe Called Quest or just on his game, this is one album any Tribe fan should own.

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ATCQ-TheLowEndTheoryArtist: A Tribe Called Quest

Album: The Low End Theory

Released: September 4, 1991

Label: Jive

A Tribe Called Quest is: Phife Dawg, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

There is no way I can express the importance of this album sufficiently.  If you like rap, and confess to it, then this album must be sitting on your CD rack at home.  Otherwise it’s like producing the American Dollar without backing it… hey, wait a minute.

Jazz and rap have never been combined so well.  Jurassic 5 even went so far as to name what is in my opinion their best album, “Contact,” after a sample taken from the final track on this A Tribe Called Quest album.  In the 90s when many of the commercially successful tracks were gangsta anthems (Straight Outta Compton, etc.), A Tribe Called Quest prided itself on provided intelligent and abstract lyrics.  In fact, “The Abstract Rapper,” or Q-Tip, has that spirit imbedded in his moniker, referring to their sense of intelligent rhyme.

“Show Business” is about exactly what it sounds like, the struggle for fame, and its downfalls of attaining it.  ATCQ assert that you have to play the game, but make it plain they are above it.  Rapping about the breaks is nothing new and Kurtis Blow was doing it eleven years earlier, but not like this.  “What” strings together a list of questions that illustrate what things would be without, um, other things.  And the answer is: nothing.  ATCQ is all about the love, and this record predates the East Coast – West Coast rivalry that consumed hip hop later on.  It’s about the music and the rhyme, and is often referred to as true hip hop.  As the Abstract Rapper said, “Rap is not pop, if you call it that then stop.”

This is an album that has only increased its appeal with each listen I give it.  If you are an avid rap listener, but are not familiar with “The Low End Theory,” then brace yourself – afterwards you will see throwbacks to this record constantly.  Maybe in albums you have owned for a long time.