In an industry dominated by new, young talent, it’s not easy for a
rapper with a career spanning more than ten years to be taken seriously.
Sure, that rapper would be respected, but not necessarily as someone who
could drop a relevant album. Those who have tried, with the exception of
a rare few, have either seen their efforts lost between shelves and
label politics; or have sorely disappointed their eager fans, thus
solidifying their “has-been” status.
With Live at the Renaissance, set to hit stores this fall, Q-Tip
hopes to escape the curse of the comeback album and maybe teach a
history lesson or two. In addition to creating a more-than-solid
offering, bolstered with guest appearances by collaborators old and new
[think Consequence and Andre 3000 on the same track]; Q-Tip’s timing
couldn’t be better. After all, the first two generations of Hip-Hop
fans are now in their late twenties and upward, and are ready for music with a
little more substance. Since he’s admittedly feeling less experimental
than he has been since entering the post-Tribe Called Quest phase, new
audiences may be more receptive of what he has to say. And from what
record execs and journalist heard this summer during a listening session
for Q-Tip’s second solo effort, he’s certainly back to classic
AllHipHop.com: Where has your musical vision taken you to now with this album?
Q-Tip: I feel like as a Hip-Hop nation, we’ve been really successful
in terms of business. A lot of dudes have been able to expand their
brands or spin ’em off into different insulary worlds: teams, clothing
lines, all this and all that. And it’s great that dudes is making
paper or whatever, running they companies and everything. But now that
we’ve gained some sort of success and made some money, now we need to
come back and focus on the music and making the music strong again, and
making it colorful and exciting again. ‘Cause I feel like it hit a wall.
And I just think that dudes need to focus on the music and make it great
again. Make music that people can play 10-15 years from now. Somebody’s
always gonna listen to Paid In Full. But you know, certain dudes make
records that, they may be hot and may be bangin’ in the clubs, but you
gonna hear it 15 years from now. I just want dudes to really take care
of the game.
AllHipHop.com: Having come from a time when most artists had a more realistic message
to their music how do you think we managed to get to where we are now?
It seems like Hip-Hop has gone so far left from where we
started. How did we lose the balance between the party side and the
Q-Tip: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. So when dudes get in the position
where they making all this money and they striving, getting all this
power, n***as forget about any form of consciousness. Because they so
wrapped up in the paper chase that anything that has anything to do with
anything spiritual is just a hold up. Because anything spiritual or
anything of some form of consciousness, for lack of a better word, is
going to inform you of the trials and tribulations of success, or of
monetary success rather. So that may get n***as off they hustle, and
n***as ain’t got time for that. They got time for giving n***as what
they think that they want and just supplying that. And dudes don’t
wanna f**k up they money, so they just keep hitting dudes with the same
thing. But if everybody is so hood, n***as gonna know one of the things
we used to say when we used to shoot cee-lo: scared money don’t make
no money. So you gotta take chances. I think unfortunately, the fact
that dudes is making all this money has deaded consciousness because
they get money doing that one thing.
AllHipHop.com: Even when you were with A Tribe Called Quest, you never really stuck to
the formula that everybody else was using. Yet, for someone who’s
regarded as an icon in the genre, it has to be frustrating that people
are so reluctant to accept it when you do bring something different.
Q-Tip: Yeah, I was saying to somebody earlier today, it’s not the age where you can
just come with something and be out the box different and pop off.
Today, you have to have an association with somebody.
AllHipHop.com: And you?re Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest?
Q-Tip: History don’t make a difference either. History don?t matter no
more. N***as is looking at me like, :Aight, yeah?” People who are
informed, say nice things and that’s cool. But the people out there,
they don’t care about history, they just care about what’s poppin’
now. And the thing about me and my music is I really feel like I try to
put something that sticks to your gut, something that can make you get
in that happier mood, and make you think about who you are as an
individual, think about certain things, think about love. You know,
think about things to charge your soul in a positive light. But at the
same time, I’m not trying to be sappy or be corny. I still have an
edge and all of that. I just try to be inventive. So I think, to answer
your question, the way that you can do it if you have something that
feel may be off the beaten path, is that you have to be strategic and
think of a way, how can I slip this thing on dudes where I don’t take
them too far left, but just enough that they can say “Oh, this is
different but I still like it.” And then you can start putting a
little bit more on.
AllHipHop.com: With Live at the Renaissance, what did you do differently than you did
Q-Tip: The different thing about this that people will notice is that I used
live musicians. I mean, I still got the Hip-Hop beats bangin’ and all
of that. It’s still got a little bit of that feeling of almost Tribe
in a way. But you know, early Hip-Hop records with like, Grandmaster
Flash, Treacherous Three, Whodini, they used live musicians and still
had a Hip-Hop sound to it. So I just, in my own way, incorporated live
musicians in my music, but making it sound real Hip-Hop. People are
gonna notice that difference. And it kind of has more of a hard edge to
it. Those qualities are existing on this record.
AllHipHop.com: Lately, there’s been a lot of TV shows and specials paying homage to
Hip-Hop. And now almost every college or university has a Hip-Hop class.
But it seems like that education isn’t going back to the Hip-Hop
culture. How do you think we can manage to get that back to our youth?
Q-Tip: I think it’s incumbent upon the artists and it’s incumbent upon the
industry to institute that. In terms of artists, I be speaking to Flash
all the time and I’m trying to figure out a record to do with him so
that I don’t beat people in the head, [but] where people are like,
“Who?s Grandmaster Flash?,” and then they do the knowledge on they
own. Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc invented Hip-Hop!
If it wasn’t for the three of them, none of us would be here. Them
three right there laid the groundwork for what this s**t is. Them dudes
need to be respected and honored constantly by every Hip-Hop artist,
regardless of what side of the fence you’re on. Them three dudes right
there, and that’s far as it goes. And people need to know that. People
need to know how Hip-Hop came about in 1974 in The Bronx, New York in a
desolate, f**ked up ghetto; almost on the end of Vietnam, post-Civil
Rights movement, heroin is running rampant throughout the ghetto. We
just came out of a sexual revolution, Black folks can’t find no jobs,
there?s a lot of gangs that’s been formed. And the education system
is poor, there?s no music in schools, or whatever. We got stripped of
a lot of s**t, so how did this thing come about, from a social, and
artistic and a spiritual point? The artists need to know this! So that
when we go in the studio to make some new s**t, we have that history in
us so we can start drawing on that information and poppin? it in the
AllHipHop.com: How do you personally take what you’ve gotten out of your musical
career to affect change socially? Do you feel that’s something you are
Q-Tip: Yeah. I feel spoken word is powerful. I feel like I could definitely
affect a change to that. And I hope to do that. I have a, I don?t know
how well this song is gonna go, but I have a song called “F**k Fox,”
about Fox News. But I’m not doing it from a position of “Fox News is
the devil;” I put myself in a regular cat sitting, flipping the
channels and doing the knowledge and saying, “Hold up! And then
just putting it in a real regular dude instinct, so regular folks can do
the knowledge. So little s**t like that, I think the music, again, is a
tool to kinda bring some sort of awareness about it, but not beat dudes
in the head where [they] feel like you talking above them.
AllHipHop.com: Do you still find that you get more acceptance outside of the U.S. than
you do here?
Q-Tip: Yeah, I do. The crowds out in Europe, or Africa, Australia, Japan, the
Philippines Hip-Hop is huge all over there. They know the history.
It’s crazy, you say DJ Pete Jones to them, and they like, “Yeah,
from The Bronx.” They know they s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think it’s because we have too much access to it here?
Q-Tip: We don’t appreciate it.
AllHipHop.com: Has that changed over the years or has it always been this way?
Q-Tip: That we don’t appreciate? I think as Americans, that’s just how
AllHipHop.com: So how you gonna be all conscious and everything, and we see you in the
newspaper linked to Nicole Kidman and all of that?
Q-Tip: [Laughs] What do you mean, “How am I gonna be conscious?”
AllHipHop.com: To a lot of people that might seem contradictory…
Q-Tip: To dispel all of that: Nicole, I know through my acting coach. We first
met because there was talks of us doing a flick together. And then, we
just became friends. This girl she works with was a great friend of
mine, we?ve know each other for years. So it’s just like, you know
people through people. And then when dudes walk down the street and kick
it with somebody, all of a sudden you f**kin’ ’em.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned the acting. Are you working on anything on that front?
Q-Tip: I’m developing this film for Killer Films about Miles Davis. It’s
called Funny Valentine, Nelson George wrote it. So, I’m excited.
AllHipHop.com: I heard you say in another interview that, despite the Tribe Called
Quest reunion tour, there won’t be a reunion album. Is that still the
Q-Tip: Yeah. The Tribe thing, we gonna keep doing shows. But it’s just the
label situation with Jive, where we’re at with the contracts, we still
at a stalemate, we don’t know how it’s gonna progress. So, we just
tell everybody, right now: it’s not looking good.
AllHipHop.com: This is the first time New York isn’t on top of the Hip-Hop game. Do
you think that?s a plus or a minus for the industry as a whole and for
Q-Tip: I mean, it’s Hip-Hop that’s being played, so that?s a plus. But,
just me being New York and having that New York bias, I’d like to see
dudes in New York stick together more and be more creative. ‘Cause this is
the home. So it’d be nice if dudes could stop fighting. Everybody in
New York got beef with everybody. Jada got beef with 50; 50 got beef
with Fat Joe; Jay-Z got beef with Nas? N***as is stupid for that, to
me personally. I think the n***as is crazy, because everybody really
needs to be camaradering together. Because, really it’s like, what are
we fighting over? Let all of that go and people need to start focusing
on getting music poppin.’