* * * *

Q-Tip, one of the king-pins of New York hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest in the late 80s and 90s, first came up with the idea for this freaky hip-hop

Bitches Brew


-style album in the late 90s.

Back then he was over the commercialised and mostly misogynistic hip-hop that was the norm and decided to do something entirely different as a follow-up to his classic 1999 solo debut,


. However, after

Kamaal the Abstract

was recorded in 2001 his record company shelved it because it didn't think it was commercial enough.

Good thing he came up with something timeless then - and nine years on it sounds fresh, inventive and cosmic.

Kamaal the Abstract

is hip-hop soul jazz with a few fuzzy, psychedelic guitar licks thrown in too, like on the opening bars of first track


. Oddly enough though it's the flute, which flits between fawning and feisty, on sloping seven-minute epic,

Do You Dig U?

, that steals the show.

Barely Love is where things start getting a little more fruity and frenetic, with its hand-claps, clavinet keys, and Q-Tip singing like a lucid,

Lovesexy-era Prince

; and just as weird is the mad noodling of


, the yabbering rhyming rap of


, and

A Million Times

reveals hints of Q-Tip's past playfulness.

It's a shame it wasn't released in the early 2000s, but there's a unique coolness to it and it still sounds ahead of its time in 2009.

Scott Kara