Unfortunately for Q-Tip, he did not die. If he had, the decade or so that's passed since A Tribe Called Quest's unfortunate implosion (and his subsequent wayward, pop-centric solo debut, Amplified) would've served as a reverent mourning period, with fans and naysayers alike belatedly acknowledging the nasally Queens emcee as one of the most influential rappers of all time. Wild revisionists would claim that Amplified really was brilliant: "Breathe and Stop", the douchebags would insist, was obviously an examination of Freud's postulation that faith in God reflects an infantile need to believe in something larger than oneself.
But Q-Tip didn't die, and there is no validation in living, so it became easy to forget how seminal he'd been to the development of hip-hop. Thankfully, though, The Renaissance is aptly titled. "ManWomanBoogie" (featuring New York soulstress Amanda Diva) and "Move" give us back the guy who leans on '70s-soul sampling and his own veracious stutter-stepped flow. The Raphael Saadiq collaboration "Fight/Love," which examines a young person's decision to join the military, reminds us of Tip's natural ability to storytell his way to crisp social observation The sonic aesthetics of "Dance on Glass," meanwhile, confirm that he remains one of the flagship artists in the field of praising the auxiliary.
The Renaissance closes with "Shaka," a spin on classic boom-bap Tribe preceded by a poignant, not-so-subtle clip from an Obama speech, making the record's point abundantly clear: I'm back, and I brought hope with me. Fortunately for us, Q-Tip did not die.
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