Review Summary: By far, the most interesting record yet put out by Kamaal 'Ear Picker' Fareed.
Q-Tip must absolutely love jazz, it seems really obvious to any listener who has listened to A Tribe Called Quest, and even those who only knew Q-Tip from “Vivrant Thing” (silly teenage girls) and the ‘time to wiggle your bum bum’ record that is Amplified. However, even the jazziest hip hopper still couldn’t have predicted the full-on jazz warfare that is Kamaal the Abstract. From song titles and lengths, it just sounds like this maybe be your average soul-influenced hip hop, but Kamaal The Abstract is different from that.
On one of the few times where Q-Tip actually raps, “Feelin” opens Kamaal The Abstract on a high note though, with a concise & angry rant about what’s wrong with the world and lost ‘feelin’, that starts out just brooding, but molds itself peacefully into a mellow and Coffee Shop-friendly organ solo that leads the song into chanting. Most of the record is quite subdued, laid-back, and easy-going, reaching for a soothing atmosphere that makes you think. “A Million Times” features Q-Tip’s Prince-ish vocals laid over in echo-ish effects and minimalistic synths, along with quite strokes of the guitar as the song fades away.
Throughout this, Q-Tip shows off four types of music: r&b, rap, funk, and jazz, surprisingly enough leaning on jazz and funk, and like the man of jazz Miles Davis himself, letting the surrounding atmosphere around him play around, as the front man works and shows off his magic. The more r&b-ish moments come in the form of the hand clap-led and Beatles-esqe “Barely In Love” and the interlude-ish and lullaby-ish “Caring”, while the rappish moments come in the form of meshing between James Brown drums and Tip’s masterful flow “Heels” and the Tribe-esqe “Abstractisms”, which still features a great deal of the two most major influences, particularly the former for funk and the later in jazz, which features a whiny-enough-to-work-somehow saxophone solo.
“Even If It Is So” meshes the albums best elements into one song, peaceful emotive saxophones, acoustic guitars, and pianos create the backdrop that doesn’t distract from bluesy lyrics. In moments, like a lot of “Do YoU Dig U"” and some “Blue Girl”, the album is a bit dull and drags like a child on his first day of school, but most of Kamaal The Abstract works together like a charm.