Q-Tip’s “Kamaal The Abstract”, Kid Cudi’s “Man On The Moon” & Arctic Monkeys “Humbug”

Kid Cudi Man On The Moon

New album reviews of Q-Tip, Kid Cudi and Arctic Monkeys.

Q-Tip – Kamaal The Abstract

Kamaal The Abstract

‘Kamaal The Abstract’ was originally slated for a 2001 release until L.A Reid deemed it noncommercial and had it shelved. On first impressions, that’s not hard to see why. ‘Kamaal’ takes it’s influences not only from hip-hop but funk and jazz also which often gives it a jam-like feel. Q-Tip has also said in the past that he was unhappy with the decision that it got shelved, especially since two years later Outkast would go on to release their most experimental work yet with ‘Speakerboxx/The Love Below,’ and receive critical acclaim and multi-platinum success for their efforts.

So finally, after the success of last years excellent ‘The Renaissance’ comes ‘Kamaal The Abstract,’ an album that has taken eight years to reach stores. Of course the most avid fans knew that the album wasn’t too hard to find on the internet. On first impressions, ‘Kamaal’ is definitely the least accessible work of Q-Tip but after repeated listens the album begins to flourish with its eccentricities. Whether it be on ‘Heels’ where Q-Tip pays homage to Prince or the saxophone and trumpet that pop up throughout ‘Even If It Is So.’ The most upbeat moment of the record comes in the form of ‘Barely In Love’ which swaggers on a Fender Rhodes and perfectly placed hand claps. But arguably the finest moment on the album arrives with ‘Abstractionisms’ where everything finally gels perfectly. The song also features Kenny Garrett, a saxophonist who has in the past worked with Miles Davis.

The strangest part of ‘Kamaal’ is that it feels slightly out of sequence considering it has been officially released after some of Q-Tip’s best work of his career. Unfortunately, at times the album comes across as unfinished. ‘Kamaal’ sounds like Q-Tip exploring a love of jazz but some ideas, like the guitar parts on ‘Feelin’ never truly take off and leave you feeling like there could be more. But that’s not to say that it shouldn’t be left on the shelf. If anything, it’s another insight into the mind of one of hip-hop’s true legends and deserves a listen.

Kid Cudi – Man On The Moon: The End Of Day

Man on the MoonKid Cudi has been living off the hype that his sometimes excellent mixtape, ‘A Kid Named Cudi’ got over a year ago. Unfortunately, some of the ideas on the album fell flat on their face (50 Ways To Make A Record) but others like ‘Day N’ Nite’ only helped to insight more excitement. And if that wasn’t enough, the Kanye endorsement, which came in the form of the two collaborating on three of the best tracks from Kanye’s ‘808’s & Heartbreak’, surely solidified his position as the one to watch.

‘Man On The Moon’ is a grandiose idea complete with different acts. It’s obvious why it’s taken him so long to record. Instead of following rap cliche’s like he often did on ‘A Kid Named Cudi,’ he has managed to create a solid album. He balances the art of singing and rapping and although in some cases it doesn’t work (e.g. ‘Soundtrack To My Life’) he always manages to come off as original.

As I’ve said before, Cudi has a penchant for nailing hooks in songs. There are no exceptions here either. The hooks on ‘Day N’ Nite,’ ‘Cudi Zone’ and ‘Alive’ all become the strong points of the album.

The biggest downside here is that a lot of these songs have been floating around in different incarnations for awhile now. The inclusion of  ‘Sky Might Fall,’ ‘Mr Solo Dolo’ and ‘Day N’ Nite’ might disappoint his biggest fans simply because of this reason. And even though ‘Make Her Say’ has that great “conscious tip/conscious dick” line from Common, the track ultimately sounds like a throwaway song destined for a quick laugh at the back end of a mixtape, not an album. It’s a pity it was included since it could have made room for something a little more stronger. If anything though, ‘Man On The Moon’ is just the starting point in the career of the 25-year-old. We look forward to hearing more.

Arctic Monkeys – Humbug

Arctic Moneys Humbug CoverThe Arctic Monkeys are a group that needs no introduction, especially considering the success of their last two albums. So it comes as a surprise that on ‘Humbug’ we find the band reintroducing themselves as a little bit older, wiser and generally ready to explore some new territory. And that’s exactly what we get. Alex Turner’s most recent work with his side project The Last Shadow Puppets had him delving deep into records like ‘Scott 4’ and coming out the other end with a darker outlook than anything that he had written before. On ‘Humbug,’ the group chose Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age to help lend a hand with production duties, which has only emphasised the darker direction that the band has chosen to go in.

Early reports from the band said that there was a Black Sabbath influence on the record and the group has also been covering Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ‘Red Right Hand,’ which says something in itself.

The album itself is not accessible for the casual listener, something which I guess isn’t really a bad thing. You have to put in the time to find out what really makes it work. What stands out the most is Turner’s capability to form something worthwhile out of the most mundane situations. In ‘Crying Lightning’ it’s all about strawberry lace and gobstoppers, which eventually turns into a story of love on the blink.

Homme’s influence pops up strongly on the slowburning ‘Fire And The Thud,’ and ‘Dance Little Liar’ where Turner uses metaphors to tell the story of a liar destined to be found out. “You’re bound to trip and she’ll detect the fiction on your lips,” he sings. As a sidenote, it’s no surprise that the band has chosen ‘Cornerstone’ to be the next single. The song is the centrepoint of the album and it makes for a nice pit stop away from the often trudging songs that surround it. All in all it’s refreshing to see that after all the attention they got, the group has managed to move in a new direction and create a unique album that deserves to be applauded.

One Comment

  1. Always loved Even If It Is So off Kamaal. Great song.

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