Kamaal the Abstract … or How I Learned Record Labels Don’t Have My Best Interest At Heart

Back in the day when I was a teen-ager, before I had status and before I had a pager … no, sorry that’s something else. But back in the day, my freshman year of college, I discovered a little thing called “File Sharing.” And proceeded to go crazy. While something like Kazaa coupled with a college’s super-fast connection speed is the RIAA’s nightmare, for a music collector it was like a dream come true. I was downloading music all the time.

One of the things I discovered was that you could find unreleased music, and that’s where Q-Tip (pictured above) comes into the story. I was already a fan of A Tribe Called Quest, and was looking up Q-Tip solo stuff, hoping to get some songs from his first album Amplified. Songs from an album called Kamaal the Abstract started popping up, and were AMAZING. I did some research and found that Kamaal... was Tip’s unreleased follow-up to Amplified, which the label had stifled and refused to release because it was too “experimental.”

For those Wilco fans out there, this “Record labels acting like dicks and refusing to support artistic expression and experimentation” jive will sound familiar, since it happened to the brilliant album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. But Wilco managed to secure a deal with another company and even get a pretty damn good documentary out of it, while it seems that the Q-Tip material has just been left to sit and stew. Which is a crime really. Like the Wilco album, the songs I’ve heard from Kamaal the Abstract are amazing expansions of the genre and just great songs. They’ve got touches of jazz, latin music, funk, hip-hop and rock, anchored by Q-Tip’s nasal singing/rapping voice. And also like the Wilco album, they don’t seem particularly un-marketable. Q-Tip also has a built-in fan base who will be interested in his music no matter what (Wilco’s fan base helped them turn Yankee Hotel… into one of the biggest albums of the year). And in the grand scheme of things, listening to the songs, they don’t seem all that experimental, just different from A Tribe Called Quest. Somewhere along the line though, some exec decided that the songs couldn’t be sold to teenage girls or somesuch nonsense and the album remains unreleased. We can only hope that someday Kamaal the Abstract will see the light of day, maybe as “Kamaal the Abstract — The Great Unreleased Neo-Soul Classic” or something. I know that I’ll be lined up to buy a copy for sure.

Q-Tip – Barely In Love

Q-Tip – Blue Girl

Q-Tip – Even If It Is So

BONUS: RH Factor – Poetry (feat. Q-Tip and Erykah Badu) (Buy It)

posted by Adam

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2 responses to “Kamaal the Abstract … or How I Learned Record Labels Don’t Have My Best Interest At Heart

  1. You were right, I liked it! I really like A Tribe Called Quest but don’t know much of his solo stuff, so thanks for setting me off in the right direction.

  2. “. . . you could find the abstract listening to hip hop / my pops used to say it reminded him of bebop . . .”

    (couldn’t help following up on that something else)

    Kamaal the Abstract really is amazing. And Q-Tip has alway been one of my favorite rappers (and Tribe is one the best hip hop groups ever).

    great post.

    p.s. DC on the way

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