Wisely, Tip ducks the issue: The usual suspects - De La Soul, Common, Mos Def et al. - are nowhere to be found on Amplified, with the exception of Busta Rhymes, who delivers a Madd Rapper-esque tirade on the succulently savage freestyle "N.T." What we do get is stew-pot hip-hop - traditional blunts, broads and braggadocio filtered through Tip's abstract lens. It's poetry crafted for boho honeys, backpack rats and thugs who like their ice on their wrists, not in their drinks.
The mix doesn't always work. The chorus of "Things U Do" implies deep social analysis ("Let's talk about the rules I break/And the things we take/And the jobs we hold/And the land we stole"), but the Abstract's opening verse ("I puff L's with ladies and gentlemen") paints a more lightweight picture. Amplified is a crossroads for Q-Tip: It's a little disturbing to hear the boy who left his wallet in El Segundo dropping the n word and lines like, "Sitting back with this mike in my hand/Spitting hot shit, trying to see grands."
Still, he's on an Isley Brothers-like mission to please. Practically everything here is directed at getting your derriFre in gear, from the bouncy guitar stylings of "Do It" and "Let's Ride" to the mellifluous-meets-frenetic canvas of "Wait Up." With its digital, heartbeatlike drive, "Go Hard" is guaranteed to populate dance floors - consider it the completion of a booty-shaking troika that began with the undeniable groove vehicles "Vivrant Thing" and "Breathe and Stop."
Mostly produced by Tip and Jay Dee - collectively known as the Ummah - Amplified slides ATCQ's music theory sideways. If Tribe was about taking the past (jazz, Seventies soul) and making it now, Tip and Jay make the music that's gonna represent laid-back hip-hop two minutes into the future - with fewer sample-clearance issues. Amplified isn't worthy of placement in A Tribe Called Quest's pantheon of classics, but then it's not a Tribe album. It's a Q-Tip album. And it's gonna make you dance like you're on a bed of hot coals. (RS 832)
(Posted: Jan 20, 2000)
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