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The Secret History of A Tribe Called Quest’s Final Album

The Secret History of A Tribe Called Quest’s Final Album

AfroPunk 2016: Ice Cube, Soulection + The Internet Close Out Day Two With A Bang

Q-Tip Is The Sonic Architect

Gary Harris:

“Tip is always a crate digger. And Ali, during the course of the recording a great deal of his time was spent scoring Luke Cage, so he wasn’t able to participate in the same way.”

Rasta Root:

“Tip had skeleton beats of things he was working on, drum program stuff as well as stuff that he would bring session musicians in to play on. It might just be his process —I’ve never seen him record before— the creation process for him is a long and drawn out process. He takes his time with it, so a lot of the time we were there it was just him figuring out what it was gonna sound like. He’d make a beat and then you’d come back the next time and there’s something totally different about it.”


“The fun shit was taking direction from Kamaal, because he had a lot of specifics that he wanted, he knew how he was painting his picture. Sometimes you’d listen to the beat, you be going in one direction and he’d be like, ‘Nah. I need you to do it this way.’ Then he’ll mumble some shit to you and then when you take that and spit that shit, just taking direction off his mumbles… you’ll come back and he’ll be like, ‘That’s the motherfuckin’ shit you was post to do.’ He was great at bein’ a director for all of us. He was great at just conducting the whole picture.”

Rasta Root:

“It was almost like learning to ride a bike again but with a tandem bike with your friend on the back of the bike. How do you do that? And that’s what it was like. Those first trips a lot didn’t get done musically but it was just them readjusting to being back in the studio together. And ultimately, like I told Phife, in the end it’s about trusting each other. I’m gonna trust this person with the next few months of my life.”

Gary Harris:

“Q-Tip engineered a good deal of it. He’s kind of a one man band kind of thing, he programmed a lot of it, he’s playing on it, he curated… Tribe is, to a large extent, his vision.

Dave Kennedy and Blair Well were the two main engineers. But the Ab is in the air. He’s a somewhat mysterious presence who you got to really know to be aware of his movements and his get down. There’s Kamaal Fareed, he lives in his house and it’s got several bedrooms, it’s a small mansion. I liken it to living in stately Wayne Manor. And then he goes downstairs into the Batcave and turns into the Ab. He puts on his cape and his utility belt and shit goes down. It’s kinda been that way all along, but he was renting these rooms [to record in] and he was more of a mercenary. Now he has this destination where artists of all kinds—Solange, Busta, Mariah, Nas—they basically ask, ‘Can I kick it? How can I get a little of that Abstract dust sprinkled on me?’ And he does, prudently. He laces people who he feels inspired by.

Then there’s a third persona he adopts when he performs. And that’s the most public it gets. That’s when the Q-Tip persona takes over and it’s a whole ‘nother thing. The Kamaal-Abstract dynamic is where he’s at most of the time.

But he’s bitten by this shit. He’s one of the dopest producers to ever come out of this thing of ours.”


“One thing Phife and I spoke about at length was the importance of maintaining the essence but not getting trapped in that, trying to like see a beyond to it. Because with the beats he always would be quick to be like: Thumbs up, thumbs down. And he would usually be dead on. So we got to keep the thread but we got to like, push it forward.

From a production standpoint, as a DJ listening or Blair Well, he’s my engineer and co-producer, my right hand man, we would listen to shit we like, shit that’s happening now. Like we were listening to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen, then ‘Money Trees’ by Kendrick and then we’d go to like Rakim. It was just a sonic exercise to hear all of those different records, not to geek out but to hear the common thread, sonically.”

Gary Harris:

“During the process of the recording it became obvious that Tribe is a brand, and Tip is a brand, and Tip is sort of a patron and father to his culture. His crib and his vision became a place where veterans saw an opportunity to reinvent themselves, including me and including his reconnection with L.A. Reid. Here you got a whole group of serious veterans who are ready to roll…

…and then Malik died.”

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