A Tribe Called Quest is one of a small class of hip-hop groups that is beloved by absolutely everyone — rap purists, bohemians, and of course whitey suburbanites. Speaking of that latter demographic, I fell in love with Tribe in college via their stone classic The Low End Theory, which remains one of my all-time favorite albums. They served as my introduction to the wide world of hip-hop. In this I am, I fear, a cliche, but what can you do?
Since Tribe broke up, Q-Tip, one of the group’s two MCs and its real soul, released a solo album that wasn’t so great (Amplified, a misguided attempt to be “hard”), had another solo album canned by his label (Kamaal the Abstract, a misguided attempt at jazz experimentation), and now, finally, has released a plain ol’ hip-hop album: The Renaissance.
It doesn’t reach Tribe’s heights — the beats don’t come close to living up to the immortal work of Tribe DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad — but it’s a welcome return to form. To be honest, Q-Tip barely needs beats at all. His flow is so addictive he might as well go a capella. Witness the first few bars of this song, “Dance on Glass.”