Hip-hop veteran Q-Tip’s second solo offering is a far cry from the slick beats and sticatto rhymes of 1999’s Amplified. The album, Kamaal the Abstract, is a genre-defying blend of nü-jazz, ’70s soul, rock, and funk; “Abstractionisms,” featuring Grammy-nominated alto sax player Kenny Garrett, is the only track that even comes close to the Q-Tip we all know. The rapper evokes the Prince of yesteryear on the smooth “Blue Girl” and the jammy “Do U Dig U,” which features contempo jazz-maker Gary Thomas on flute and sax and up-and-comer Kurt Rosenwinkle on guitar. Thomas’s flute ripples over and in between the track’s programmed beats like a butterfly lost in a concrete metropolis while Rosenwinkle’s guitar buzzes and grinds on the horizon. The album’s surprises are plenty: the urgent “Barely In Love” is a pulsing funk-rocker while the piano interlude “Caring” is startling in its simplicity—if only for the sheer fact that Q-Tip is singing. Elsewhere, “Even If It Is So” and the guitar-driven “Feelin’” are downright contagious. With Kamaal, one of hip-hop’s finest has once again redefined his game—and upped the ante for the whole hip-hop genre in the process.
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