Amplified

Q-Tip

Arista, 1999

http://www.qtiponline.com/

REVIEW BY: Jedediah Pressgrove

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/17/2010

Production from Q-Tip himself, the late J Dilla, and DJ Scratch overshadows everything else on Amplified. When Q-Tip’s lyrics lack punch or substance, the album is saved by cool beats, inspired sampling, and an overall cohesive sound.

For his solo debut, Q-Tip reels in his socially-conscious side to try something new. Well, new for him anyway. Bragging about your car (“Let’s Ride”) is hardly a bold step. As such, it’s weird hearing Q-Tip rap about “TVs in the back and the dash, too.” The good news is that Q-Tip’s delivery and flow are engaging as usual.

But the production on “Let’s Ride” holds my attention more than Q-Tip’s vocals and writing. The Joe Pass guitar from “Giant Steps” is an intimidating yet catchy centerpiece that makes “Let’s Ride” the jazziest song on the album. Beyond the jazz and superb beat, the production suggests you are visiting another planet while on drugs. In the background, you can hear various short vocal samples, single high-pitched tones, and other spacey effects. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The nuanced production improves tracks that don’t seem to go anywhere. “Go Hard” lacks quality lyrics (“Go / Go at / Go at it hard / Real hard” is the definition of an awkward chorus), but damn, that muted bass synthesizer is awesome, and I love how the beat goes metallic for the last 30 seconds. Almost every song has a surprise production-wise, whether it’s the clapping interlude in “Wait Up” or the low-to-high frequency note (similar to THX’s audio logo) in “All In.”

But isn’t a bit troublesome that I don’t have much to say about the lyrical content of the album? Q-Tip just didn’t put much thought into these songs, which are mainly about bragging or banging. Another common criticism is that Q-Tip uses more profanity in Amplified, but I find this complaint shallow and ridiculous. For one thing, profanity doesn’t mean one is less intelligent (I mean, look at Hunter S. Thompson, George Carlin, and Chris Rock). Moreover, compared to numerous other rap albums, the language in Amplified is tame.

The real problem with this album is that it lacks interesting themes and good rhymes. The best lyrics are ironically on a hidden track, but if you’re not familiar with A Tribe Called Quest (Q-Tip’s former group), the story will not interest you that much.

Despite its flaws, Amplified is quite listenable, excluding horrible guest appearances by Busta Rhymes and Korn. (In fact, Korn is featured on the final track, “End Of Time,” which doesn’t fit the album that well in general.) I recommend this album for its outstanding production alone. Just be warned that the songs mostly suck otherwise.  

Rating: B-

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© 2010 Jedediah Pressgrove and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Arista, and is used for informational purposes only.