Kamaal The Abstract


Battery/Jive, 2009


REVIEW BY: Jedediah Pressgrove


Kamaal The Abstract is intentionally uncategorized. “I hate categories,” Q-Tip told JazzTimes. “I hate calling shit jazz, hip-hop, rock or R&B. It’s just music when it’s at its best.” His last statement reminds me of a friend’s take on A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory. He specifically says it’s the best album in music, not just a great rap album.

But many music lovers want to classify what they hear. I attempted to categorize Kamaal The Abstract more than a few times after purchasing it a couple of weeks ago. After listening to the album a great deal and reading interviews, I can say that my attempts were futile. The fact that “Barely In Love” reminds me of something a rock/pop band might do is reason enough to dismiss what I thought I knew about Q-Tip (and it doesn’t hurt that “Barely In Love” is a solid song by itself).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Q-Tip’s previous effort, The Renaissance, was a rap album influenced by a slew of genres. But his latest release is an album of genres. That doesn’t mean that the listener can fit many of these tracks into one genre. The guitars in “Feelin’” switch between old-school R&B and power-chord rock, but the beat is all hip-hop. Q-Tip raps the only verse before stuttering “What happened to that feel-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-feelin’” during the chorus (my transcription of this vocal isn’t perfect, by the way). The vocals turn soul later on. Kevin Scholar’s organ solo is jazz. The track is nuts, to say the least.

The strange truth is that this disc was supposed to be released before 2008’s The Renaissance (in 2002, to be exact), but it sounds like Q-Tip could have recorded it immediately after The Renaissance. Seven years later, the album sounds like a thing of the future. JazzTimes writer John Murph was right about this record when he said “calling it a radical departure is an overstatement,” but it’s hard to deny how far ahead it is, both musically and philosophically, than anything Q-Tip has done, including all his instinctive travels with Phife Dawg in A Tribe Called Quest.

As great as the album is, it’s slightly flawed. “A Million Times” is not a bad song, but it is stagnant compared to tracks like “Do You Dig U?” and “Blue Girl,” and I just get bored with it after a couple of minutes. “Caring” is a nice piano song, but it feels tacked on and thin at only a minute and 40 seconds, and I usually like short tunes. And with few exceptions, you’re not going to find lyrics that stand up to Q-Tip’s past work. But the last criticism doesn’t register as a negative. The album simply focuses on feel and groove over lyricism, and it works for the most part. Just don’t buy this disc expecting as many rhymes.

I really think Q-Tip has come out with a great musical statement, and thank Christ the record companies couldn’t keep this one down forever because of its supposed lack of mainstream appeal. If anything, Q-Tip is one of the more accessible artists in the rap world. He’s in a multidimensional world on Kamaal The Abstract, though, so even rap listeners will have to adjust their minds.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


Great review - thanks for posting this!

© 2009 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 Battery/Jive, and is used for informational purposes only.