Q-Tip: The Catalog

Today, November 4th, Q-Tip drops The Renaissance, his 8th in the new Tribe edition. Sure the album is only his second proper album, but anything Q-Tip affiliated is essentially A Tribe Called Quest. “I would never put produced by Q-Tip on this even though I did all this,” says The Abstract about his production imprint. “I felt like I should never be bigger than the group. I really wanted to build something with the brand, with the Tribe. Make it feel like something you were a part of, everyone was a part of Tribe.”If your math is still a little fuzzy, the eight total comes from five A Tribe Called Quest albums (including the astounding pair, Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders), his first solo, Amplified, the shelved Kamaal/The Abstract project and now the tardy, but nevertheless critically touted, The Renaissance via Motown/Universal Records.Much can and has been said about Q-Tip and his contribution to the Hip-Hop cannon. He and his Native Tongue cronies are certainly direct antecedents to the contemporary crop of genre advancing supa MC’s. Whether established (Common, Mos Def, Kanye West, and Lupe Fiasco too) or fledgling (Pac Div, U-N-I, Blu), they all owe at least a nod to The Abstract.With that in mind, we handed Q-Tip LPs and 12” singles (yes, vinyl) from his sizeable catalog and asked him to expound on their creation. The result is anecdotes that include everything from connecting with J. Dilla to getting props from The Notorious B.I.G. to scheming on taking photos of Naomi Campbell in the nude. All in all, here, and surely on The Renaissance, we have a look at Tip’s continual devotion to the art of moving butts. AllHipHop.com: Alright, “The Promo” by The Jungle Brothers, was this your first time on wax correct?John Davis: Yeah, “The Promo” is my first time on wax actually. The b-side [to “Straight Out the Jungle”] we did this at uh, Tony’s studio and actually Straight Out the Jungle was the first record I ever was a mixer on. Me, Red Alert and umm, yeah we mixed that record. What year is this?The Promo – Jungle BrothersAllHipHop.com: Probably like ’89.Q-Tip: Yeah I think this is ’88, when we came out with this.AllHipHop.com: Were you signed at the time or were you just trying to get on?Q-Tip: We were just getting on. We all went to high school together. We went to Murray Bergtraum High School in Manhattan and it was just, fun times man. Red Alert was Mike G’s uncle, so that’s how dudes got on, through him. It almost seemed like we was hanging out, then when we was rhyming, and we was getting high, doing whatever. And, n****s was f**kin’ around for a couple years, and then by the time we got to like 10th or 11th grade and Mike was like, “Yo, my uncle’s Red Alert…” We was like, “N***a what? What the f**k?! Why you ain’t say that s**t earlier?!” Mike is a cool n***a, that’s just how he was. He put Sammy on, the other dude, you know what I’m saying, they just kind of like, did their thing. And I just came up, through them.AllHipHop.com: Now on your verse you mention Shaheed, but you don’t mention Phife. Was Phife not in the group yet?Q-Tip: At that time, Phife was my man, and we were f**kin’ around. But he had went away to school, so at the time it was just me and Ali. But I had always had plans to like, “Come get down n***a.” But back in the day it was like; you have the MC and the DJ, so we were kind of working off of that dynamic.AllHipHop.com: How’s Phife doing by the way?Q-Tip: He’s doing great. He just had a successful kidney transplant so shout’s out to Phife Diggity Dog. That’s my n***a right there. What else you got man?A Tribe Called Quest “Can I Kick It?” VideoAllHipHop.com: That’s vintage [hands over People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm album], so be gentle with that one. I’ll hand you these too [“Bonita Applebum,” “Can I Kick It?”].Mr. Incognito: Oh word, you’ve got the rare treats. Is this original?AllHipHop.com: Yeah, it’s original.Q-Tip: Yeah, it came out in the spring of 1990.AllHipHop.com: Was “Bonita Applebum” the biggest hit off of that album?Q-Tip: The biggest hit off this album was “Can I Kick It?” actually. The first song off this album actually was a song called “Description of a Fool.” 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9…11 songs on this album. Wow. So yeah, the first single on this album—oh no this is a re-issue—you know why, because “Description of a Fool” is not on it. The original, the first run of it had “Description of a Fool,” I believe. If I’m wrong someone correct me. Because I know a lot of y’all are going to see this out here. AllHipHop.com: You sure? Because I bought the re-issue with the double vinyl, that’s re-mastered but the one your holding is a single record.The Abstract Poetic: Why isn’t “Description” on it? I got to call f**kin’ Barry Weiss at Jive. The didn’t put f**kin’ “Description of a Fool” on this record! What the f**k?! This is my magnum opus. AllHipHop.com: Tribe’s single were always real chunky with the remixes and b-sides, what was the motivation behind that?Q-Tip: Damn. You know I haven’t looked at this s**t in forever you know that right? [Starts reading liner notes] The eardrums and throats of Gracie, which was my girlfriend at the time. Shouts out to Grace Harry, whose running s**t over a Def Jam now. Malik, Brother J from X-Clan, before X-Clan jumped off. Who also went to our school, Murray Bergtraum. Lucky, which is Pos Dnous’ brother, Rosene, Mr. Lawnge from Black Sheep, Nyree was a friend of mine from high school, Rashad, which turned out to be Rashad Smith who works with Erykah Badu. Rashad did “One More Chance” for Biggie, the remixes, both of them. He did “Dangerous” for Busta, “Woo-Ha” for Busta, that’s Rashad. We used to go get beats together. Kierna Mayo who was one of the first writers of The Source, who also went to my high school. She started Honey Magazine. My man Big Ro from Bed Stuy, my man Vaughn the Beatle, The Beatnuts. Uncle Mike which was Ali’s uncle. Stephanie which was Ali’s first girl. Native Tongues—it’s crazy man. Shwingalokate. We had a lot of inside s**t going on on this album. I would never put produced by Q-Tip on this even though I did all this. I felt like I should never be bigger than the group. I really wanted to build something with the brand, with the Tribe. Make it a part of the unit. Make it feel like something you were a part of, everyone was a part of Tribe. I wanted it to be like an everyman thing. Not one person shine out the group. A Tribe Called Quest “Check the Rhime” VideoAllHipHop.com: So was it a case where yall had joints, find another beat on there and were just like, “Let’s remix it?”MC Rocko Ribtip (BBQ Crew): Yeah, we were like “Yo!” let’s put this remix on it. It was just something that we all did back then. It was just fun. [handed a copy of The Low End Theory] Yeah, this is definitely a reissue because we were managed by Rush, Russell Simmons, at this time and it says Chris Lighty on here. I’m trying to see who’s the young lady on here. Well, my idea for this was, this lady you see right here, I wanted it to be Naomi Campbell naked. With the Tribe paint on her. In the city like right over by Broadway and 23rd, there’s like a V. That splits 5th Ave and Broadway [Ed. Note: The Flatiron Building]. I wanted her to stand out there naked, with the paint on her. I was like “That’s artistic.” They were like, “No, it’s horny.” [Laughs] So they kind of voted against it. So they got some other girl, who’s a nice young lady who I met. But they wouldn’t let me watch her get naked. And they put this on her booty and she’s naked. I want to get those original photos. And they put this on a black background. I just thought this was an ill little cover that fit the music. This was a cool album man.AllHipHop.com: Did y’all feel on top of the world when y’all dropped that? It certified A Tribe Called Quest.Q-Tip: I don’t know if I felt on top of the world but I felt like when I heard this. We got something special with this. AllHipHop.com: A lot of producers go back to the album because of the way the tracks are put together. Like how the snares are hitting, the depth of the samples. It was like a step above everyone else’s records at that time.Q-Tip: I know when I hear it now, I want to get back in and remaster this thing. I hear things on it that could have been better. I know the thing that inspired the sound on this album was Straight Outta Compton. We had heard that when we dropped our first one and they dropped their first one, N.W.A. We were like, “Damn,” we kind of wanted to go back.I was just like, okay, I’ve got to approach this next album with the sonics to f**k with them n****s. Because it was just so hard and so dope. I mean we just used to bump Straight Out of Compton like crazy. That was the impetus for the sound on this. It’s funny because when I saw Dre afterwards, he was like this s**t made The Chronic the way it did. It was interesting that it related to him that way. But this was good times man. We had a song that we did with Brand Nubian, the “Show Business.” It was called “Georgia Porgie” and they didn’t want to put it out because it was this n***a frontin’ like he was straight, when he was gay. So, we had to flip the title and flip the song. AllHipHop.com: Nowadays, when remixes are put together its kind of artificial. Q-Tip: I feel like with “Scenario” we was definitely f**kin with each other. We was hanging out with each other. Today, I think when you hear collaborations, dudes look at it like a business venture. Dudes be in their studios, and they e-mail verses to n****s. So it’s no real studio time. Back then, we was in the studio together. Got like a dime bag, got an eighth of something, put it in the air, vibe in the studio. Just do it, that’s how it was. A Tribe Called Quest “Award Tour VideoAllHipHop.com: Now on “Vibes & Stuff you call yourself the midnight marauder [hand over Midnight Marauders], that was the segue…Q-Tip: Yeah, “Q-Tip the midnight marauder, giving ‘nough respects, to Afrika Bambaataa.” Yea, I was listening to the rhymes I felt like that would be a dope title. I never heard that before, I just made that s**t up. A lot of my movement was nighttime so I felt like when I heard that, it made sense. When I heard that it just made sense because a lot of us was on there [looking at cover and name people on it]. Grand Master Flash is on here, Kool Moe D from Treacherous 3, Beastie Boys, Heavy D, MC Lyte, Whodini, Diamond D, Crazy Legs, Rocksteady Crew, Ice T, De La, Jungle, Large Professor, Chuck D, Too Short, Third Bass, Organized Konfusion, Cold Crush Brothers, Lords of the Underground, Special K, Teddy Ted, Ron G, Jazzy Ja, Black Moon, Pharcyde, Puff Daddy’s on here. Crazy. When we did this, I just felt like the music would definitely be listened to at night. I felt like, “Nighttime is busy, it’s words to Aunt Kizzy til’ the time we get down.” I would make beats all night. Crack morning. It just seemed, the ground for us to be creative. The singles off was “Award Tour,” which is still one of my favorite rap songs. Love this song. [looking “Award Tour” single’s cover] This picture was actually taken at a showcase we did, it was us and The Beatnuts at the Palladium in New York City. And nobody had heard any of the new s**t. I remember Puff was there and Biggie was there. So, we were just, you know, good in New York. We were like, “Y’all wanna hear some new s**t?” It was like 2,000 people. They were like “Yeah!” And it got real quiet. I swear to God it got quiet. I was like, “Aiight let’s go.” And we hit, “Oh My God.” N****s, was just like, “Oh, S**T!” I saw people in the crowd looking like, mouthing that. We mounted it, because we thought “Oh My God” was going to be the first single. We didn’t even know this one [“Award Tour”] was going to make the album. At least for me, I didn’t know how n****s was gonna f**k with it. I was like this would be a good place to perform it, and we did it after “Oh My God” and the crowd went bananas. And then these pictures were taken right when we were performing it. Yeah, live at the Palladium. We walked off stage and Puff and B.I.G. was right there. And B.I.G. was like [mimicking B.I.G.’s voice], “Yo my n***a, yo my n***a, that s**t is crazy my n***a. Yo y’all n****s was crazy on that mothaf**kin stage my n***a. I’mma see yall n****s in a minute.” I’ll never forget. “Yo my n***a, yo my n***a, that s**t is crazy my n***a,” Then after “Award Tour” we came out with “Oh My God,” which, I just said was probably going to be our first one. Dope song man. Really dope song. We shot this picture in New York City, in Chelsea at this studio on 25th St. We had a couple remixes on here. AllHipHop.com: The Know Naim Remix.Q-Tip: Know Naim Remix, where I put my boys from around my way on there. My man Snag right now, he f**ks with Swizz Beatz. He’s doing beats with him. Swizz used to be around my way a lot because he used to f**k with my man Snag’s sister Peaches. So I used to see Swizz as a little shorty, real quiet, f**kin around and s**t. “Lyrics To Go” was, was the b-side, that was my s**t. And then we had a song on here called “One, Two S**t” with Busta Rhymes, which is my s**t, I love that joint. Wild Hot – Q-Tip & Busta RhymesAllHipHop.com: You and Busta got an ill chemistry, with joints like “Wild Hot” [Rhymes & Reason Soundtrack], “Ill Vibe” [Busta Rhymes The Coming], the pair of joints on his last album [The Big Bang]. Seems like through the years, y’all have managed to stay tight.Q-Tip: The thing about this song with Busta, “One, Two S**t,” was at this period he had broken up with Leaders [of the New School]. He was kind of like, floating, trying to find his identity. And I would always f**k with him, give him beats. He was in between his styles, and trying to figure out his style. That’s my man, you know what I’m saying? He was a mainstay.Then the single after this, of course, my favorite as well, “Electric Relaxation.”  A lot of people ask me, what are you saying in the hook? “Relax yourself girl, peace out premiere? That’s what I got a lot. Peace out premier. But it’s actually, “Relax yourself girl, please settle down.” Produced by A Tribe Called Quest. I always would put that there. Raphael Wiggins appeared on “Midnight” which was the b-side, and Raphael Wiggins, for those who don’t know is Raphael Saadiq, and he played bass on “Midnight.” A Tribe Called Quest “Electric Relaxation” VideoAllHipHop.com: Okay, here’s a copy of  “1nce Again” and “Stressed Out” from Beats, Rhymes & Life.Kamaal Fareed: This was an important album because this was, right between—at the end of Midnight Marauders. When we was on tour, I wound up in Detroit. I was on tour with these guys Funkadelics. And one of the guys in Funkadelic was this keyboard player named Amp Fiddler. He was like, “Yo, I need you to meet this kid, he looks up to you. He patterns some of his s**t after you, and he’s dope. When we get to Detroit, I want you to meet him.” So we on tour, and then I meet this kid, his name is James Yancey aka J. Dilla. He had glasses on, big smile. Gave me his tape and I was listening to it and it was Slum [Village]. I was like, “This s**t is crazy,” I said, “Yo who’s doing the beats, this s***t is nuts.” I saw Amp, the next day and I’m like, “Yo!” He said yea, he sound like you, but he’s some other s**t. I said, “Yea, he’s some other s**t.” So I called him, I was like, “Yo n***a, we gotta do something, n****s gotta hear you.” So I introduced him to everybody. He also worked on this, the fourth Tribe album. “1nce again” was one of his creations. I just thought he was amazing. [Pauses] “Stressed Out”, Faith Evans. [Pauses] Yes, that was one of my favorite songs too. A Tribe Called Quest “1nce Again” VideoAllHipHop.com: On to The Love Movement, the last hurrah for Tribe.Q-Tip: Then we came to The Love Movement—the last ride for Tribe. “Find Away” was the single, and the b-side was “Steppin’ It Up,” with Redman and Busta Rhymes…AllHipHop.com: I remember watching the BET Rap City special where y’all were talking about this is the end. It seemed like y’all were crazy fed up with the industry politics. Now today do you think that’s changed for the better or are things the same?Q-Tip: I think that the industry is definitely worse. Because people are focused on spins and sales, and not like artwork, or the process of the music, or how you’re gonna relate the music to the audience, s**t like that. This cookie cutter s**t that is set up that people try to follow, they try to be frugal about it and watch the bottom line. It’s gotten a lot worse. But, I feel musically, there’s an underground that’s happening, an excitement that’s going on where artists are trying to express in very creative ways and taking chances that’s good for the music. [It’s] starting to reverberate.Q-Tip “Vivrant Thing” VideoAllHipHop.com: The Arista era [hand over “Vivrant Thing,” “Let’s Ride” and a “Kamaal/The Abstract” sampler].Q-Tip: So, this is “Vivrant Thing.” Uh, ya boy got a lot of flack because of this. N****s was like, “What the f**k!” But, this was my biggest record and it still bangs. I broke up with Tribe at this point and I had a fire. I lost everything. And this was out and it started running. Like that whole time is really blurry to me. I remember this coming out, and just kind of setting off Chris Lighty and his whole Violator thing. I remember Lyor Cohen: [imitating his voice] “If you put this s**t out, you’re f**kin’ madman. This s**t is trash.”  We put it out and this s**t popped off. And the rest is history. At this time too, this is when they started really doing the BDS tallying. This record was the biggest record BDS record for Def Jam at the time. Then it was “Thong Song.” After that it became “Can I Get A…” Then after that I lost track. But it was “Vibvrant Thing” that lead us into the Amplified album, and “Let’s Ride.” Amplified was done primarily by J. Dilla and myself. And this is one of the joints that he did, I added little sprinkles but primarily it’s J. Dilla, be clear. We was just having fun with the beats, the s**t was crazy. This [points at Kamaal/The Abstract sampler] was with Clive Davis. Clive Davis and I was talking about doing an album together, live band, instrumentation and all this s**t. He was like, “Aww man Q-Tip you know I put that album out with Miles Davis, Bitches Brew. I think that’s what we need right now, something like that. It would be amazing” So I said, “Alright.” I started sketching things out. But then Clive got ousted, and he was about to start J Records. He wanted me to come, I wanted to go, but then Russell Simmons called me, and Lyor: “Q-Tip, if you f**k with Clive you’re crazy, you need to f**k with L.A.” And then Russell Simmons called me like, “L.A. Reid is the first black executive to run a major record company,” I should stick there.”So Lyor and Russell used to manage me, so I said ,“F**k it, aiight,” and did that. I started f**kin’ with LA Reid. I played him some s**t off this album and he really dug it. He was like, “Yo, we gonna put this s**t out.” So he sent it out to press, and we got great reviews. But he felt like he didn’t hear no single. And he just got real weird. So I was like, “Dude just give me a release and I’m out of here.” So he gave me a release and I was out of there.AllHipHop.com: You plan on finally putting it out right?Q-Tip: Yes, I’m definitely putting this out. Definitely putting this out. I have the masters now, so now I’m just negotiating with a couple people to figure out what I’ma  do. I have all the artwork, the reels, I’ma definitely put this out.Q-Tip “Getting Up” VideoAllHipHop.com: Now, we have The Renaissance. It’s been a bit delayed. What’s up with that? Q-Tip: Well because of what happened with Kamal the Abstract, that you know, I went to Dreamworks, recorded another album. That label, Dreamworks, folded and I wound up at Interscope for a month, and Geffen for a year. Now, I’m here. It took a minute, but now I’m here.AllHipHop.com: The Renaissance is definitely the type of album that should be taken in as an entire work, but considering today’s individual single mentality, how do you deal with that?Q-Tip: The best thing I can do is just go out and perform and do dope shows. Let people know [and] see who I am as an artist and as a person and hopefully people will just buy into that. That’s all I can do. Cause all I’m doing is expressing and talking and trying to relate some things to people. That’s my approach. Not really trying to look to have like all the accolades in the world. I just want to make music and talk to people.AllHipHop.com: It seems like you caught hella flack when you veered off course from your musical standard but, for example, Def Jam isn’t going to tell Kanye we’re not putting out your album. What’s your take on that?Q-Tip: Yeah, no one’s going to say to Kanye because Kanye represents so much money to them in the building. And they’ve already put so much money out, and he’s already had so much success that Kanye can basically sneeze on a record right now and people will go buy it, f**k with it. And that’s just the truth. They’re not really looking at Kanye at Def Jam as your musical exploration, they’re looking at his brand and how much money he generates. There’s no A&Ring or maybe you should do this with your record. There’s no counseling. No nothing like that, they’re just gonna put the s**t out. And just, work that wheel, and work it til it don’t work no more.Q-Tip “Move” VideoAllHipHop.com: So your album drops November 4th, obviously Election Day, was that on purpose? Hopefully it’s a renaissance for the country.Q-Tip: It’s definitely something I didn’t plan, but it’s definitely something that I dig because of the serendipitous nature of it. The album’s called The Renaissance, we’re talking about renaissance or a rebirth here in this country. Political and socially in an idealogical sense. And we’ve been speaking about that for Hip-Hop too. Ringtone rappers, dudes with their shades on when it’s three in the morning; all that funny style s**t n****s been talking about that—how can we circumvent that and get it back to the beats and rhymes and all of that. It’s ill how they’re both kind of running the same course. The musical renaissance, artistic renaissance and the social and political renaissance. I had this album titled before that date. I had a song with Obama on their before I even knew that date, it just seems in the ethos. So, I’m looking forward to it.Shaka – Q-Tip (feat. President Barack Obama)AllHipHop.com: Didn’t you have to cut the song with Obama from the album?Q-Tip: I’m gonna put it out. The song is on there but I had to take it out. But I’m gonna leak it.AllHipHop.com: Thanks man. Appreciate your time.Q-Tip: That’s what it is. It was good, I liked that, more people should do that man.AllHipHop.com: One last question, if you want to strike it off the record cool, but word is that you ran up in Jive and started taking Tribe plaques down and taking them with you. True story?Q-Tip: Yeah, yeah I did that. They was wiling towards the end. You know, we had a big argument, and we was illin…

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