Q-Tip: Quiet Domination
For 19 years, the seemingly ageless Q-Tip
has connected the past with the future. From his Native Tongues
roots, Tip stood up for the Afrika Bambaataas and Red Alerts,
while he lobbied for a more colorful brand of Hip Hop in lyric and sound.
A decade later, Q-Tip reconnected the sexes with "Vivrant Thing" and "Let's Ride," commercial records that upheld the love, peace and having fun promised by A Tribe Called Quest. As Kamaal The Abstract, the producing emcee looked far into the future, and scared off some of the label people who his work had seemingly employed. Two albums went shelved.
Today, with acting credits under his belt, a Hip Hop Honor on his shelf and that same warm demeanor, Kamaal is still challenging space and time. In a conversation with HipHopDX that analyzes the common ground of Queens' rappers, the evolution of acting and Kanye's endorsement, Kamaal's impact and reflections are anything but abstract.
HipHopDX: Youve been in the game for quite some timelets say 15 years. A matter of fact lets push it to 20.
Q-Tip: [Smiles] Whats up with those numbers?
DX: [Laughs]. Since the first time you touched the microphone up until now, whats your most memorable experience in regards to Hip Hop?
QT: [Pauses] Its been so many. Some are still on the horizon too. But um, I dont know. Im going to write a book; Ive decided. Not anytime soon, but Ill probably do it when Im like 60.
DX: Yeah, you got like 40 years to
QT: Yeah. Somewhere around there. Ah, Im definitely going to write a book. But I dont know, theres so many memories. I can remember the first time we ever performed in [New York City]. I can remember the first time I ever recorded something on the four-track. I have a lot of memories. I remember meeting Mick Jones from The Clash, and he had just formed this group called Big Audio Dynamite, and we opened up for them. Just crazy stuff, a whole lot of memories.
DX: Coming out of Queens and having came from the same place as people like Russell Simmons, 50 Cent and Nas. What do you think it is about that borough that creates these creative, innovative and successful people? Theyre on top of their stuff.
QT: I dont know. I think theres some sort of relevance to it, because the same could be said for Detroit or Philly. Sometimes where youre at [geographically] plays into the generations to come. In our neighborhood it was definitely black, and it was definitely ghetto. There were pockets in our neighborhoods and you had homes. In those homes you had ability to access a basement. You were able to put instruments down there, pianos, drums or whatever. Before it was me, [LL Cool J and Reverend Run] and those guys and Nas and all that, you had people like Omar Hakim, Marcus Miller, who played the bass for Aretha Franklin, or Bernard Edwards and there were bands. With Hip Hop, it was a DJ and an emcee, but before that, in the '70s, there were bands. They would play in the basement and go to play in the park and play at the parties. Hip Hop was like an extension of that. I guess this creativity from the hood was because there were a lot of bands in the hood back in the day.
DX: If you could do it over, would you be an emcee? And if so, would you take the same route or would you do something else?
QT: No regrets. Ill do it the same way. I might make minor adjustments. [Laughs]
DX: Im sure.
QT: I think we all make mistakes. Yeah, pretty much. Im blessed. Every morning, I get up and I pray and I say, wow." Im pinching myself, still. Its crazy. I know it might sound corny and Hallmark-ish, but Ive been pinching myself for a very long time. [Laughs] Im surprised I dont have pinch marks. I have an opportunity to meet great people, to do something that I love, for people to appreciate- cmon dont get me started. Im happy.
DX: Well, not only are you an emcee but youre a producer as well as an actor. Which is very hot. Taking it back to the music, whats the biggest difference between writing lyrics and producing a beat?
QT: It just requires different skill sets. Music is sound; its mix matching, numbers and stuff like that. It requires more handy work in a way. Writing is a bit more deliberate and contemplated. Some people approach it where the writing becomes a vessel for their expression. Sometimes I write and sometimes I hear the music and cut the mic on and not even write. Its two different things though.
DX: Lets talk about Kanye West. He always mentions A Tribe Called Quest and how he vibed to the music, growing up. How does to feel to be the inspiration for artists like Kanye West who looked up to yall, who are in modern day Hip Hop, some would consider to be a musical genius?
QT: Its all very flattering. Its also encouraging to know that somebody whos contemporary or whos to come after you, who kind of operates off of some of the things that youve done. Its great. It makes me feel ecstatic. What can you say?
DX: Whom did you admire growing up or who did you look up to?
QT: Slick Rick. I tell him that, all the time. Hes like my major influence. Theres so many. Him because, I felt him. I related to him because of his voice and his wit. I knew that I could do it when I heard him. To me, theres been- but not to digress, but one of those moments was the record, The Message, Sucka MCs or cross records between Eric B. and Rakim came out and that was Eric B. for President. In between that it was Lodi Dodi, and Slick Rick. They flipped it. Hes one of my major influences, as well as Rakim. Run-DMC of course. It was so many. Even today, I dig Common. I think [Lil] Wayne is nice with it. Im a fan first.
DX: Cool. Lets talk about your
upcoming album. I know you had a record out that never released, yet a lot of
people heard it and they thought it was amazing. What can we expect from this
QT: This album is called the The Renaissance and its out December 18th. Its not your regular kind of Bar Mitzvah band. Its a Hip Hop record. Its speaking on whats going on today with me and with us. Im just trying to move the music in different places. Im excited about it.
DX: When you say us, whom are you referring to?
QT: Um, all of us.
DX: What do you want to be remembered as? A lot of young people might look at you as an actor (She Hates Me, Brown Sugar, etc.) and your film background is crazy. When its all said and done what do you want Q-Tip to be remembered as?
QT: I dont know. Um, Q-Tipthat name- we have to put that name to bed.
DX: [Laughs] Okay.
QT: [Laughs.] What do I want to be remembered as? I have to be honest, you remember on Wu-Tangs first album and they asked them, What do you guys wanna do? and they responded, Domination, baby, take over this whole shit. [Laughs] I want to be remembered as an artist that did great things and through my talents be able to inspire people, influence people and encourage people in a positive way. I want to do music thats timeless. I want to do film thats timeless. Im probably no different then anybody else. I have the same aspirations-I want the house and the car and all that. Its more to it than that for me. I want to do the stuff that really makes a difference. I was listening to War on my way over here.
DX: Bob Marley's song?
QT: No, War the group War, or even if we speak about Bob Marleyits the same thing. When you hear it, it still inspires you. You can hear one lyric that motives you and inspires you. Those are the things that Im interested in and Im spoiled. Ive been able to do that with Tribe - music thats going to be here when Im gone. Being that I flirted with it, I want to see her again.