Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest and the Soulquarians celebrates his 43rd birthday.
It’d be hard to imagine hip hop without Q-Tip and his influence on not only the music but the culture as a whole, being a member of the Zulu Nation. He’s one of the few people in the game to be held in such high regard as both an emcee and a producer, perfecting his craft on both levels for the past four decades and never showing signs of musical decay. From the profound impact the first three Tribe albums had on hip hop to his work in non-hip hop territories, he makes a mark where he lays a verse. Just look at his features on tracks such as Deee-Lite’s Groove Is In The Heart, Chemical Brothers Galvanize and even collaborations with Elvis Costello and REM. He’s a student as well as a teacher of his discipline. So to celebrate, we’ve picked some of his finest tracks, showcasing his lyrical prowess and fine production. Fingers crossed for The Last Zulu this year!
A Tribe Called Quest – Bonita Applebum
A hip hop classic, no doubt. The second single from A Tribe Called Quest’s debut People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm helped put Tribe on the map thanks to one of the smoothest hip hop beats ever.
A Tribe Called Quest – Excursions
For those who hold The Low End Theory close to their hearts, the album couldn’t have opened any sweeter than this. Excursions was a lyrical masterclass by Tip, discussing everything from home life to Africa.
A Tribe Called Quest – Electric Relaxation
Midnight Marauders was one of the defining albums of the Hip Hop Golden Age of 1993-1994 and Electric Relaxation is one of the greatest hip hop songs ever. Simple. Although Phife Dawg slayed his verses on this, Q-Tip effortless flow is hard to forget.
Nas – One Love
When he wasn’t spitting verses for Tribe and the like, he was hard at work with his MPC and Nas’ One Love was one of the fruits of his labour. The song, with classic boom bap and a superb vibraphone sample, helped Nas sky rocket into the hip hop conscious as a serious emcee to take notice of.
Q-Tip – Vivrant Thing
After the break up of Tribe, Q-Tip decided to go it alone and enlisted the help of a certain Jay Dee for his debut album. Vivrant Thing was the biggest hit off the LP, which didn’t garner the praise expected but who cares what the critics say?
Q-Tip – Feelin’
After Amplified didn’t do as well as hoped, Q-Tip decided to strip things down and experiment with more jazz-styled compositions. Arista Records weren’t so sure and the album was eventually shelved. When Kamaal/The Abstract was finally released in 2009, it favourable reviews and showed what Tip had to offer on a compositional front. Feelin’ echoed the “feelin'” of early jazz fusion, when Miles Davis was experimenting with rock and electric vibes in the 70s.
The Chemical Brothers – Galvanize
One of Q-Tip’s many features, Galvanize was a foray into a different kind of sound for the rapper but he still navigated the unusual 6/4 beat with ease.
Q-Tip – Life Is Better feat. Norah Jones
On Life Is Better, it was Tip’s turn to have someone feature for him and Norah Jones stepped up to the plate with an exquisite hook next to an ode to all the great emcees, past and present.
Q-Tip’s appearance in Poetic Justice
Not so much a musical appearance but Q-Tip’s first film appearance in Poetic Justice with Janet Jackson. Unfortunately, his role didn’t last long as he was subsequently shot dead.