Your new album is titled The Renaissance, which means “rebirth.” Are you looking at this album as your rebirth?
Yeah, totally. I think now is the rebirth for all of us. I feel like it’s a new kind of age in a way just because the way that people get the music has totally changed and the labels have been consolidated and all the business stuff, blah, blah, blah, they don’t really get. They’re all trying to make money and I think they wear their hearts on their sleeve. You can see where they’re coming from and their position is clear, I think. We’re at a crossroads and I think that, being an optimist, it can be good.
You gave away your single “Work It Out” for free download and you did a mixtape with Statik Selektah. How have you been adapting to the changing game?
If you want to talk to people, you have to kind of learn their language and I don’t think that you’re ever too old to learn something new or to embrace new things. At least I’m not. I love what I do and I love people and I love to communicate with folks, which is why I do this music here. It’s a great thing.
What was your state of mind recording The Renaissance?
Just good. I was in a good space. I was just being open and being creative.
Are you happy with the way that “Work It Out” has been received so far?
Yeah, yeah. People really dig it a lot and I feel like it’s doing good. It definitely doesn’t sound like a lot of things that are out so I’m really excited about that.
In “Work It Out,” you mention having passion for hip-hop and being an MC. How have you been able to keep your passion throughout the years and has that been a challenge for you?
Yeah. Your passion always gets challenged, I think, but that’s what makes you become more passionate because you have to go back and revisit what those things are that get you hard or get a rise out of you. And once you go back and you look back and you see what those things are, you kind of, like, think about it and live in that moment for a minute and you start to notice it in your current space. I’m happy that I’m still in tact with my passion.
You also talk about one-hit wonders in “Work It Out.” How have you managed to have the longevity that you’ve had in this game?
First of all, it’s through God’s grace. I’ve been blessed. And second, I just really love what I do and I stay open. I’m not just in it for the business like some people are. I’m in it for the music. I’m in it for the expression of it. I’m in it for the art. I’m in it for the shapes and the colors. All things artistic are what I’m into, first and foremost. It’s not like I’m not trying to make money. I’m definitely trying to put some money in my pocket, but first and foremost it’s about the music.
How do you balance giving fans the classic sound that they want from you while still showing your growth as an artist?
I just try to satisfy myself, first and foremost and I think that’s what everybody has to do. And then I think that once you do that, people will look past the things that they may have gotten hung up on and kind of relate to it for what it is. Like, some people become a slave to their audience because they want to be successful. I just want to have a conversation with folks. A conversation is not going to be the same all the time. It’s going to vary and change and in the midst of a conversation, you may have an argument or have a falling out but you can call them up and get them back on the phone again. I think that both parties gain from that. I’m not going to be out here trying to, like, whore myself and try and appease people and then I lose sight of who I am and what I’m working on. And I think people respect that. They respect integrity.
Did you reach out to other producers for The Renaissance?
I did everything.
What was it like producing for yourself this time around?
It was good. I’m not a stranger to it. I do that. I did all the Tribe albums. I did all the beats on that and I’ve done beats for Mobb Deep, Busta and Nas. I produce. It’s great.
Do you get the respect you deserve as a producer?
Probably not. I think I could get more. I think that people definitely sleep, but I don’t mind being an underdog. And people do a lot of riding or whatever, but I’m still here and that’s a testament to something.
When you produce for yourself, do you find that you bring elements of yourself out that no other producers can?
Yeah, I definitely feel like that. I feel like out of these cats that are out right now, they do their thing and I’m not taking nothing away from nobody, but I do love what I do and I do love how I approach stuff. Otherwise I wouldn’t still be doing it. What I’m saying is that I have an idea of what I’m doing. So it does bring out stuff in me that other things couldn’t, I guess.
Did anything you did on Amplified change your approach to The Renaissance?
I don’t know. It was just a different era too, in a way. I’m going to stay on the road a lot and I’m going to be on TV. I’m not really focused on the radio. If a song gets on the radio, I’ll take it, of course, but that’s not really my playing ground right. I’m really trying to get out there and see people and touch people and present some cool videos and some cool visual aids and just go for it.
Is The Renaissance overdue?
Yes, figuratively and literally. I think in a literal sense, I haven’t really put an album out since Amplified because Kamaal the Abstract didn’t come out, but I’m going to get that. But it’s been a minute. So this is way overdue. This is not going to happen again. I’m putting another album out immediately and I’m going to keep it classic. Figuratively, I think it’s overdue because you have people like Common. Congrats to Talib. You have people like Kanye, obviously, and Mos Def and you can continue to stretch it and say Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Maxwell and people like that. There’s Outkast too. It’s folks that come with something different that aren’t the average “hold my dick, I’m fly and this, that and the other”-type cats. It’s something that’s more introspective. I feel like we need to have a level playing field and I feel like it’s overdue to that kind of renaissance as well.
Does the success of Common’s Finding Forever motivate you and let you know that The Renaissance can be successful?
Yeah. The same way that that brother stood on my shoulders, I stand on his. The same way that Kanye stood on my shoulders, I stand on his. The same way that Pharoahe Monch stood on my shoulders, I stand on his. Every time somebody like that does something good, it makes the possibility stronger for the rest of us to do something good too.
What was it like working with RZA on “Just A Lil Dude” off The Afro Samurai Soundtrack?
RZA is a contemporary of mine and I’ve known him for a long time and we’re cool. He’s fam.
Was that collaboration a long time coming?
Yeah, definitely. We were making noise before the Wu and then the Wu came in and made some noise and then we were both making noise at the same time. People were looking at us like we were Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones or the Beatles and Pink Floyd or something. We were both huge groups. It was cool to collaborate with him.
How relevant is Industry Rule #4080 today?
Oh, man! (laughs) It’s ultra-relevant. It’s hyper-relevant. And they’re paying the price, man. First of all, a lot of these executives are not looking at it from a musical perspective. It’s more business for them. There may be a few that can combine the two successfully, but there are a lot of them that don’t know how to do that. They play tiddlywinks with people’s careers. There are people who are talented and stuff, who put out some certain pop offerings and it does what it does and it’s great for business and commerce but then there might be somebody that’s a little more deeper and a little more introspective and they just don’t get it so they let it live on the internet or they let it be some underground stuff. And it’s so obvious that the pop stuff is empty.
And the people and the fans…I was just telling somebody, people don’t listen to their radio anymore, dude. The people have their iPods and the internet and satellite radio and the radio is becoming archaic. People don’t really listen to that shit anymore. That shit is dead. Record company people are operating like dinosaurs which is why they’re getting bit on the ass. Fifteen or twenty years ago, when the internet was just beginning and the people from the internet were coming to the record companies about the technology, the record company executives were kicking them out of the offices. And now the internet is kicking them in the ass! (laughs) It’s good for them. It’s good for them.
Looking back on your career, do you have any regrets?
No, I don’t really have any regrets. It was supposed to be the way that it was and it’s still going, so I’m appreciative of that. I feel blessed at everything.
What’s the next move for Q-Tip?
I have a tour with Common that’s starting on September 22. I’m getting ready to drop the next single. It’s called “Almost There.” And I’m getting ready to put the album out in February. It’s The Renaissance. I’m getting ready to shoot a couple of videos and I’m staying on it.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Thank you for the support that you’ve given over the years and high art is going to be for sale in February.