8/01/2006 Add a comment

As some of you know, my favorite musical act besides Bob Dylan is A Tribe Called Quest. After they broke up, I was mightily disappointed by their mediocre (Q-Tip: Amplified) and piss-poor (Phife: Ventilation) first solo efforts.

Since then, they both have been thwarted by shady 'record company people.' Tip has had two solo albums shelved because his labels didn't know what to do with them. Apparently Kamaal the Abstract, from four years ago, would have foreshadowed the rise of Outkast's more recent stuff. And this guy is still trying to convince Arista to release it.

Q-Tip's newer album, Open, never even had a chance. Now they say he's coming out with a new record this summer, Live at the Renaissance, which I'm hopeful actually sees the light of day. Phife finished another album, cleverly titled Songs in the Key of Phife, which also hasn't been released.

The record companies are to blame. According to Phife, Tribe still owes Jive Records an album and has been dragging their feet for 8 years, unable to get out of their contract and clearly stifling their creative abilities. So they produce other people's stuff, show up as guests on other albums, but don't do anything original. They were back in the studio over three years ago with nothing to show for it. And their solo projects have bounced around different labels, as Tip started with Arista, then Universal, and now with Motown (a Universal subsidiary). In the face of being pushed from the mainstream, Phife started his own record label, and Tip did the same.

Looks like I have some internet digging to do to see if I can find some tracks from these unreleased albums. While I've set my expectations considerably lower than 8 years ago, I still think these guys can reinvent themselves, at least as well as any 35-year-old rappers. ben