Q-Tip: Kamaal The Abstract (2000)


Thanks for advancing music, now drop dead.

Purchase this album: Amazon

(The following article was written in 2005, but in 2009 the album was finally released.)

THE SCENE: As the ex-leader of the beloved conscious rap group A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip irritated his fan base with his unexpectedly jiggy solo debut, 1999’s Amplified. Sensing that he wasn’t cut out to be a fur-wearing mainstream rapper he completely flipped the script for his next album, 2000’s Kamaal the Abstract.

Much like Sting did for Dream of the Blue Turtles, Q-Tip also assembled a tight team of jazz musicians and crafted a sweet album of finely textured pop songs that crackles with deep grooves and the joy of live band performance. Kamaal the Abstract humbly melds the best aspects of acid jazz, hip-hop and alternative rock into an ambitious and exciting new form.

“Feelin” jumps in with a seemingly ordinary hip-hop track but expands like a peacock plume with chunky guitars and radio static. After rapping and scatting for a bit it’s all about the O.G. organ solos, played so vibrantly you’ll forget that it goes on for minutes. It’s full of “walking down the street on your way to the party” spirit.

Q-Tip’s commitment to the flow of the groove is so sincere he sometimes vanishes altogether, as he does in “Do U Dig U”. He introduces his spacey and souful singing voice then lets the flutes take over, gilding slinkly across crisp percussion, recalling those smoky bohemian clubs with the small round tables and red lights that serve mojitos.

The electric piano-driven “Barely In Love” warmly invokes the buzz of a new crush with the most joyous hand claps you’ll hear outside of a gospel choir:

When you really think about it
love is truly powerful
the undeniable force
that makes it magnetic
when you can’t explain
when you do
what you do
can’t nobody take away
when you do
what you do

His band turns up the intensity in “Heels”, his playful ode to women’s shoes, with stomping drums and funky xylophone. “Abstractions” is a musically dense bottle rocket of fun where he repositions himself, the new advanced model Q-Tip, as a playful musical adventurer.

THE FALLOUT: Arista Records treated the album with all the love of a stripper at a church picnic, branding it “uncommercial.” Promo copies were released to hip-hop and rock journalists, who alternately raved it up or ripped it to shreds. A Spike Lee-directed mini-movie was commissioned and abandoned. A 2002 release date was set and cancelled, causing Q-Tip to negotiate a release from his contract. Five years after it was completed, Kamaal the Abstract is still lying somewhere in Arista’s vault.

UPDATE: It’s now available from Amazon and you can listen to tracks here:

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Introducing Konoko N°1: the world’s only electrified Congolese trance punks.

33 thoughts on “Q-Tip: Kamaal The Abstract (2000)”

  1. I not only wish that had been properly released, but that Q-Tip had been able to tour. With the right musicians, could have made for a great show.

    Except for “Caring.” That one’s weird.

  2. I liked Blue Girl especially and I agree where did that “Caring” song come from.
    Is this one of those bands no one has heard about now but in 5 years this music will be old but it finally will be heard?

  3. As a musician I find this music inspiring and I give Kamaal props for having the guts to take on such a departure from his “roots.” I heard someone down play it because they said Kamaal was on the Outkast tip sounding like “The Love Below.” Little did they know this was done years before. Just goes to show, timing is everthing in the music biz.

  4. As a musician I find this music inspiring and I give Kamaal props for having the guts to take on such a departure from his “roots.” I heard someone down play it because they said Kamaal was on the Outkast tip sounding like “The Love Below.” Little did they know this was done years before. Just goes to show, timing is everthing in the music biz.

  5. I’ve had all the tracks for 3 years. In ATCQ, Q-tip fused with the jazzy sounds of the trax. However, what he does here is hit or miss. Vocal lessons might help him reach his potential. You can’t really expect Arista to put out something that they don’t believe in. But…people like myself would have purchased this album just because it is Q-tip. Tip could have released it mix-tape style if he really wanted to get it out. Either way I got it and I am feeling most of it.

  6. I’ve had this CD since 2002. When I heard it, I quickly fell in love with the grooves and new ideas this cd provides. I just knew that this CD would be a top seller, but not only to the rap crowd, but jazz and alternative crowds (that sounds commercial to me, I don’t know what Arista was thinking.) Maybe they didn’t want him to gain a bigger following. I’ve noticed the music industry likes pigeon holing artists, which defeats the purpose of it being called an art. Anyway, the imagery Qtip paints with this CD is something everyone should hear and feel. It wasn’t until yesterday that I found out the CD was never released, and am still shocked.

  7. Ok, this album is on the same level if not over Bilal’s Love for Sale, also unreleased. This stuff is landmark.

    I seriously cant believe what I’m hearing right now …this is true magic (pun intended). For a record label not to release an album like this is an exercise in pure and unadulterated fascism and censorship. I mean damn, no one said you had to market it…just release it!

    Please post this album whenever you get the chance. Riches will await you in heaven.

    -The Working Class Hero

  8. my biggest personal problem is with … myself!

    I hear ANYTHING with the vocals of Q-Tip and I immediately, subconsciously and consciously jump to the comparison of whatever is new (and in this case, never released) and Tribe’s – Midnight Marauders…It’s an issue that should have been solved in 95 but….since that is not ONLY a pinnacle hip hop cd…it’s a pinnacle MUSICAL FORAY…it’s hard to separate the old ‘Tip from the newer ‘Tip

    with that said: why O why does this man rely on record companies..maybe his contract locked him in … but since the contract expired…I’d like to naively think that he could self release…but I’m probably incorrect…


    for putting the kamaal cd, on your blog, you don’t know how much this means to me, it’s so real, Q-tip brings another element to hip hop that is definetly needed and thank you for also seeing that.

  10. I heard about this album by a friend who is on point with music, but all of my efforts to find the album were in vain.
    I also heard Kamaal the abstract was going to be released early 07, but that hasn’t happened.
    So…you can imagine my shock when I came across this website, and was able to hear the album in its entirety.
    I’ve listened to the album, and don’t understand why Arista didn’t take a risk and release it.
    Also…Caring is fine…I think if you’re into Jazz / piano accompaniments you’ll feel the song.
    Q-Tip is a great artist and I agree with anonymous…why hasn’t this been self released???
    Thank you for sharing this musical experience!

  11. The songs on this cd are deffinately funky, but i dig it. But ya know, like Q-TIP said in the song ‘Check the Rhyme
    “….Industry rule number 4080, Record company people are shady…”
    Its a Shame that it was never released, but big thanks for having it on here. I haven’t heard any of the songs til I visited this site.

    Someday, I tend to believe, Q-Tip will put something else out.

  12. man this cd was so dope just ahead of its time. supposedly its supposed to be dropping in late 07 early 08…..it’ll still go under the radar but i’d love to see him perform these cuts live. its real music.

  13. une musique formidable..sur les 3 titres écoutés, pas un ne dépare…il ne faut pas laisser cela dans les tiroirs..

  14. I heard this album a couple of years ago and I loved it then as I love it now …they wont put this out but yet theyll put that souljah boy crap out …or some more of that nonsense they call music nowadays ( sounding like my dad did when I played hip hop for the first time for him lol )

  15. Heard this album in like 2002 although it’s a great album I’m not surprised his label wouldn’t release it, most of these label heads could care less about the music, they’re looking at dollar sighns and this album is a big change from amplified. Andre 3000 kind of worked up to The Love Below, so it wasn’t too surprising the label probably owns the publishing and copyright to the album so it prob won’t be released without the labels permission which sucks becuase when albums like this are released and do well, it raises the bar for everything else and that definitely needs to happen right now It’s sad that an album done 8 years ago is more creative and all around better than most of the music in most genres released now.

  16. Yes this really is a good piece of work. Until Q gets the album into his possession from Arita, it’s unlikely to see the light of day unfortunately…

    Can someone with the promo CD add it to Discogs (preferably with ALL the artwork — 600 pixels width) under his appropriate artist name. Here’s the link: http://www.discogs.com/artist/Q-Tip .

    Thanks in advance.

  17. Please keep this on your blog! A friend of mine forwarded me the link to your space. We are both big Tip fans and I love this CD. I want it!! If you are a Q-Tip fan you can’t help but love this CD. He should take a lesson from Prince…keep your head up baby and keep doin’ your thang!

  18. Damn, record lables SUCK!! Arista and L.A Reid, idiots that they are, didn’t know that at least 100,000 Tribe fans would have bought this without hearing it, just because of Q-Tip.
    This is some deep funky music which doesn’t sound dated even now in 2008.

  19. If Andre 3000 and Erykah were to have a boy, this is what his music would sound like. Oh wait–they did have a child! lol

    Very refreshing to hear creative music. This definitely should have been released. Let the people be the judge if it’s good music or not.



    I just bought The renaissance and heard this album before, but now need it for my ipod. Even if you have it all on mp3, please send it to me. Q-Tip is coming in 3 weeks to my city.

  21. brothabobb from Baltimore.really enjoyed this cd.it's a shame that it wasn't released.even though the record company deemed it not marketable,but just like the song on the Love Moment cd THE LOVE!!! he did it all for the love Ya'll

  22. I found this on isohunt.com by searching for Kurt Rosenwinkel, Tip had done some production on Kurt's Heartcore album. What a happy accident that was, cause this album is great, even "Caring," that some others were disrespecting. Tip's singing is perfectly acceptable as well, although voice lessons, which someone suggested, couldn't hurt.

    "Barely in Love" and "A Million Times" are particularly nice.

    If you like this check out The Solos Unit.

  23. Been listening to this album since it made its way to our offices in 2002, and can't say how happy I am the rest of the music world can enjoy this as much as I have over the years…

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