This story does not have a happy ending. It concerns an album entitled ‘Kamaal the Abstract’ – the unreleased jazz / hip hop album from Q-Tip, formerly of A Tribe Called Quest. In 2001, promos of the album were released to critical acclaim but the album was never released. Why?
I’m afraid it’s the same old story. Boy releases first solo album ‘Amplified’ to critical acclaim and chart success. Boy then delivers a personal, inventive second solo album of jazz / hip hop grooves with live instrumentation. Record company freaks out, expecting ‘Amplified 2.0’ and shelves the album citing lack of commercial appeal.
Thankfully, those original promos are still floating around on the internet allowing the fans to judge for themselves. The 9 track album may not have a single to rival ‘Breathe and Stop’ or ‘Vivrant Thing’ or a single at all in fact, but it is what it is: Q-Tip getting the chance to explore and make jazz rhythms with a live band rather than sampling old jazz records as he did for A Tribe Called Quest. It’s the sound of a rapper who wanted to push himself and his creativity, to get back to his roots after his digital album ‘Amplified’. ‘Kamaal the Abstract’ contains live drums, guitar, organ, saxophone, trumpets, flutes and of course the distinguished rhymes that Q-Tip is known for. Q-Tip even sings a little bit and there’s some great female backing vocals throughout. It’s a throwback to organic studio albums from the ’70s and early ’80s with strains of Stevie Wonder and is informed by Q-Tip’s extensive sampling of that era throughout his career.
There is a petition online here to get the album released and there is rumours that Q-Tip is trying to legally acquire the album from Arista Records. In the meantime, things haven’t been going too well as his second official album ‘Open’ was initially shelved. It now appears that it will be released under the title ‘Live at the Renaissance’ from Universal/Motown with guests such as Common, Andre 3000, Pharaohe Monch and Kanye West. No word on an official release date yet but head on over to Q-Tip’s myspace to hear the track ‘For the Nasty’ featuring Busta Rhymes.