Sitting down with Q-Tip is always a double edged sword, excitement to talk shop with a literal reference point in music, but also disappointment that there are enough stories and questions to last days, so choosing wisely is a necessity because time is short with a man who remains just as relevant to music today as he was when he hit the scene with Tribe decades ago. Even so, we got down to the gritty details of what fuels him and his recent collaborations with guitar virtuoso Kurt Rosenwinkel.  Q-Tip produced Kurt Rosenwinke’s 2003 album Heartcore and Kurt performed on Q-Tip’s recent albums The Renaissance and Kamaal/The Abstract.

On meeting Kurt Rosenwinkel…

“I met Kurt through my friend of mine. We kind of got together and jammed a little. We talked about music and stuff like that. That’s how it started, we started vibing together. I think he’s the best guitar player in the world bar none. He is a master of his instrument. But also his approach to things harmonically and melodically is really interesting, kind of along the same lines as I hear things.”

In the studio…

“We work together. Someone will conceptualize an idea and then the other will add things and stuff like that.”

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On Co-Producing Rosenwinkel’s Heartcore…

“It was really Kurt. I just kind of gave him some sounds and ideas, but he really did the record. They were his compositions and all that. He let me hear some things at one time and I thought it was cool. It was really great. He has an amazing feel, but not only for jazz, for hip-hop.”

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On live instrumentation in hip-hop…

“I think it’s important. Early rap records all had bands whether it was Poogie Bell, Marcus Miller, or Tito Puente. A lot of those cats played on the early stuff, on Enjoy Records which put out Treacherous Three or Grandmaster Flash, or the Sugarhill Gang. A lot of those bands were accomplished studio musicians. So there’s a lot in hip-hop. Then it went into more of an electronic thing and now you see a lot of cats using the live bands again. So I’m hoping that it will come back full circle because it’s important to have live musicianship in the fold of the music so that you can get someone’s perspective on what’s happening musically rather than a machine’s perspective. You can control a machine, and that’s cool too, but there’s a sort of disconnect there. You hear a musician and it’s the direct sound.”

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On jazz and hip-hop…

“I don’t think it matters what any of the music is in terms of hip-hop because hip-hop is an all inclusive form. It started out with people like Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, and Kool Herc who would play every kind of record at a party if it had some sort of groove to it. So what that suggests is that most music has some sort of pattern that it follows. There’s some sort of regiment there. It doesn’t make a difference of what form it is. With that being said, jazz and hip-hop is definitely a natural connection.”

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On collaborating with Norah Jones…

“I just liked what she had done. I loved her voice and thought she would be great. What drew me to her was her ability.”

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On staying on top of the music scene…

“I just follow truth and honesty in my music and in my work. Whatever moves me is my rule of thumb. If I’m doing something that moves me, then hopefully people will see the sincerity. That’s what keeps me going.”

On The Last Zulu…

“I’ve just been sketching so far. I haven’t gotten that deep into it, but I started doing some scratches for it, so it’s coming out cool. I’m really excited about it.”

On his sampling process…

“Everything is fair game whether it’s on a record or in my head. Whatever is out there, I just turn it on and turn it up. I tune in.”

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Check out Q-Tip Online
Dilla Tribute ft. Q-Tip @ The Revivalist

Words by Eric Sandler

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