Back in 2010, one of the greatest MCing/Producing combos Hip Hop has ever witnessed sent out this particular tweet. Being the fan that I am, this news was cause for excitement. Unfortunately, we now live in an age where Rappers can express their unfiltered statements and give announcements like “This project is coming soon.”, “This project is a classic.” or “I am going to kill it this year.” yet these claims are often not backed up by meaningful actions. That’s right, Q-Tip was nowhere near back and throughout this article, which is a sequel [the original being this,] I’ll discuss some of his moves and their context, even though the fan in me low key wanted him to keep his word.
Swizz Beatz serves as an interesting point of reference. Swizz has definitely been working, and people are actually paying real money for said work. Despite the fact that Swizz actually believes Reebok[‘s] back and that featuring the vocal talents of Alicia Keys on this beat made complete sense, he did manage to keep his promise. In an interview from last year, [that I ‘m having a hard time finding due to the redundancy that brought these interviews to become more and more useless,] Swizz conceded he claimed for notoriety. He braved about how he wasn’t seen enough, he wanted to be the forefront, he wanted to appear more.
And he did. Although he might have broken a law by inviting himself to every Kanye studio session during the Free Fridays period, you certainly couldn’t miss Swizz Beatz in the last six months of 2010, a trend he’s somehow managed to stretch far into 2011 with no signs of slowing down. It’s remarkable, really, if you consider the number of hooks he had to offer, you’d think he’d be better at it, or at least gotten lucky with one or two.
Now what about Tip ? From the time of the tweet in question to me actually drafting this article [which was a long time ago,] his most noticeable move was this. He also participated in producing a Santigold track called Go!. Why am I not linking the track ? Trust me, it’s more an accident than a move. He did manage to produce a less-than-thirty-second Intro for Glasses Malone, had a modest appearance on Saigon’s debut album and co-produced something on Watch The Throne. Is that the big return he had warned the game about?
It might seen unfair for me to imply Q-Tip should be forced to work more. After all, some work is better than no work, right ? Well, the lack of content is actually only half the problem, and I’m also here to tackle the way he’s been conducting his projects.
But back to that tweet, let’s look at Beyoncé, for example. The album Q-Tip was working on with her already dropped and, yup, zero actual Q-Tip on it. None. Watch The Throne, coincidentally, featured a song with Beyoncé vocals with Tip listed as a co-producer. Easy to deduce, a co-produced track, and the obvious low-point of the most hyped up projects of the year, was likely just a leftover his work from her solo album. That’d be a shame, if that the only record deemed worthy from Tip’s sessions with Beyoncé is the disaster affectionately known as “Lift Off”… Although I’m involving a theory here, you get the point.
And if you don’t, let me spell it out for you – Q-Tip has become a Plan B producer. That’s not my personal ranking [Lord knows I think Kamaal is one of the best to ever do it,] but rather how the market labeled him to keep the motor running. Think back in the Represent days, Fat Joe, known to pick beats with a very wise ear, selected Diamond D to go over half the project. Would D have that much space on the album, though, had Jim Jonsin or Lex Luger been around at the time ?
If you have ever heard H.A.M., you know exactly what I’m talking about here. And if you don’t, JihaD worded it out in a recent article – Go there and take a look. While recording My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West knocked out so many tracks, he had about five records with T.I. done. While there are a lot of rappers out there who could use a verse from Clifford, does Kanye really need five tracks with T.I. ? Apparently not, as none of them ended up being used, but that’s what he was doing – He was on overload mode much like Swizz Beatz, collecting what he could from his sessions.
Remember that boom bap album Kanye had previewed for DJ Premier way back in the album’s lifecycle ? Although West denied its existence, it isn’t much of a reach to think that it exists somewhere among the countless tracks that were recorded for what would eventually become the final album. But it didn’t end up being [or wasn’t at all] Plan A.
If you think those are exclusive events, think of Losers. Soundtrakk is a long-time collaborator when it comes to Lupe Fiasco. They work well together and have musical chemistry, which is obviously important. But in the grand scheme of things ? Atlantic thinks of Soundtrakk as a Plan B producer. They don’t care about Lupe Fiasco’s or Soundtrakk’s vision, just like some record executives don’t care about Tip’s. That’s how Soundtrakk got reduced to a bonus track on the album. Alex Da Kid, though ? Yeah. They listen to what he has to say, he’s big money. Record something with him and not releasing it ? Not happening. He’s a Plan A producer. You go in the studio with him to find the single. That’s the purpose he serves, much like Polow Da Don.
Now of course, the reason this bothers me in the first place is that if Q-Tip has a vision, then that vision should be respected. At the end of the day, as he would put it himself, the man wants to be remembered as an artist who did great things. And while Tip has without a doubt created some incredible music, the path he’s on in this stage of his career is leading him to do great things that no one is releasing.
No I.D. is taking over The Believer and Salaam Remi is handling Life Is Good solo. No room for Q-Tip to participate on either these great Hip Hop moments that are about to happen. Kamaal needs to move. And he can.
Pete Rock, fresh off a Smif-N-Wessun joint record, is taking Camp Lo to the studio. No I.D. [who cracked Watch The Throne’s highlight joint as Beyoncé was rehearsing the Lift Off chorus] dropped a joint outta nowhere with Common and some friends under the name Cocaine 80s. Initiate something, Tip. Stop waiting for others to see the greatness you can bring, give the fans what we want. Inspire artists to go search for you phone number and order some of that crack. Show some work.
Shit, Common himself was part of this article as a second target when the draft started, but he’s since flipped the script. and Tip, you can too. Unlike the rappers discussed in part one of this article, all you need to sort out is your own motivation. But it’s been more than a year now. Announce some projects, drop a solo EP from the middle of nowhere much like the Cocaine 80s to get fans excited about your next solo album, fuck, do something. Anything. Give us a sneak preview of what you’ve been working on with Jay so that we at least know that something is still actually happening. Leak a joint from The Standard, since you announced you were working on that with Common three days after the tweet at the top of the page. And yes, I still believe that project might someday drop. I know I shouldn’t, but such is the life of a fan.
It’s time for you to get back in the game, Kamaal. It was time last September when you made those announcements, and you’re still not back, a full 12 months later. While no one is asking you to go Swizz on the public, you can and should do more. As important as the A Tribe Called Quest documentary is, remember Raekwon’s philosophy: There’s still history to document. The game is not done. And this fan, in particular, is not about to give up on you anytime soon.