Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Amplified [Arista, 1999] A
  • The Renaissance [Universal/Motown, 2008] *
  • Abstract Innovations [free download, 2008] *
  • Kamaal the Abstract [Battery, 2009] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Amplified [Arista, 1999]
Q-Tip's agenda is the hundred or so electrobeats that pulse identically for the first 20 seconds of the lead "Wait Up," before he opens his mouth to announce a "brand new page." Thus does the man who made Ron Carter the embodiment of hip hop humanism assert his solo personality, and let the Quest fans who'll never forgive him catch arthritis and die. He gets stronger music out of hard beats than he ever did out of soft jazz, and those surprised by how much he likes sex are in denial. He's his own man, and vivrant for it. A

The Renaissance [Universal/Motown, 2008]
If jazz lite it must be, by all means, rap on top ("Shaka," "Official"). *

Abstract Innovations [free download, 2008]
Rhythm experiments, and later for the improvisation experiments ("Black Boy," "I Got Rhythm"). *

Kamaal the Abstract [Battery, 2009]
Arista didn't pull this jazzmatazz off its 2002 release schedule because major labels are evil. Arista pulled it because it stunk. Buried at Track 7, the developed rhyme, unkiltered time, unsettling keyboards, and Kenny Garrett sax coda of "Abstractionisms" deliver what the flowery "Caring" and the endless "Do You Dig U?" emphatically do not: the "brand new sound" the finale only brags about. In the narrow sense of rhythm tracks, the beats have some ass to them, but as music they revert to fusion kitsch whenever the artiste sees an opening: swamping the bridge of the trifling "Heels," hogging the back end of the working-girl praise song "Even If It Is So." Fact is, without his group this major rapper has been lost musically since 1999. In 2008, he denoodled some on "The Renaissance and the Abstract Innovations" mixtape. But though I'm sure there are other cameos I've forgotten or missed, for me his best work of the decade came fronting the Chemical Brothers and freestyling on Kanye West's "Touch the Sky," first immersed in an alien music, then relying on his naked voice. B-