BY MAX LIGHT • NOVEMBER 5, 2018
November 4, 2008 was a day laced in change. Marking the Presidential election that led Barack Obama to Office, American politics and culture was in the midst of a transformation. Hip-Hop artists became increasingly vocal in the conversation of change in America. In addition to US politics, Rap music seemed to be undergoing its own remodeling. Accompanied by the historic election, Q-Tip’s second album, The Renaissance, presented itself as the perfect declaration of change on all fronts.
Tip had a good idea of what he was up against with the release of this album. In an interview with Thomas Hobbs of NME, he describes how the new scene transcended into his studio sessions for the album. “It felt like I had re-entered Hip-Hop. At the time I exited, music was vastly different,” he says. The Abstract then goes on to describe how the differences overcoming the culture were those of a newer model to a familiar ride, “I came back and was like ‘Okay, the brakes are still there. This is the steering wheel. We don’t put the keys in doors no more, I can handle that!’ It was like even though things had changed, the premise of a car is still a car. Once you get in, you keep things moving.”
The Queens, New Yorker was looking to instill a sense of individuality in how to make it in music for the next generation. On the album’s fourth track “Official,” Q-Tip describes how he doesn’t need the charts to validate his message. “When I said ‘don’t need a Billboard hit for me to hit you‘ – that thinking ties into the logic behind Soundcloud Rap as well. Those lyrics were about showing rappers that there are other pathways and conduits to reach your audience. That lyric spoke to the archaic construct of the 21st-century record business, which a lot of people were still trying to cling onto at the time. I saw it deteriorating, so that lyric was a little prophetic. I wanted to show there was a different path to success.” In hindsight he sees the energy and message of the record speaks to what Hip-Hop has become. “Up until DAMN., Kendrick didn’t have a lot of radio play, yet he was still selling albums,” Tip observes. “J. Cole didn’t have a lot of radio spins either, but was doing world tours and has legions of fans.”