There are several theories as to why the music industry is in a bind. One reason points to record company greed: it helped stoke the flames of piracy. Judging by the tortuous history of Kamaal The Abstract, we should add A&R incompetence to the list.
In 2002, Arista Records shelved the album because it was deemed un-commercial. Q-Tip said in Remix Magazine, “LA Reid didn’t know what to do with it.” Seven years later Kamaal The Abstract is available and it turns out to be as good as 2009’s The Renaissance. Indeed, some will definitely prefer it.
The rocky riffs of opener Feelin’ signals Q-Tip’s intent to make an unconventional recording. For starters, the rapper sings on it. And there isn’t just a passing flirtation with jazz here, but proper improvisation, notably from saxman Kenny Garrett on Abstractisms. Jazz funk makes an appearance too with the brilliant Blue Girl, which sounds like it leapt off a Don Blackman LP.
Such an eclectic album will inevitably have some misses alongside the hits, but this fact doesn’t diminish what is an inspired recording. It makes you wonder what other gems are languishing in those record company vaults.