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Before heading to a meeting in the East Village with his old friend, producer Mark Ronson, Q-Tip chatted thoughtfully about his early interest in music, the relationship between hip-hop stars and their fans, and, yes, A Tribe Called Quest. Everybody was doing “the Freak.” There was a part of the record that went “Hot shot, hot shot, hot,” and then there was a break. It was really hot outside and I was a kid, so I related to things in a very simple way, and I remembered that. ” Then, when I heard [early rap hits] “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” and “Rapper’s Delight” on the same day, I saw everything differently. No, I was more fascinated because I didn’t have a relationship to music like that.What role did music play in your household growing up in Jamaica, Queens? I didn’t think I could be in the same setting with the greats, because these were our heroes, so I didn’t really look at it like, “I want to do this.” What made me do it was [future A Tribe Called Quest MC partner] Phife.Originally Jonathan Davis, he later converted to Islam and now goes by the name Kamaal Ibn John Fareed.His family moved to Queens when Fareed was still young, living near the Linden Boulevard he has referenced on many classic records.“It’s like, I’ve been talking about it the whole time.” Maybe that’s because it’s been nine years since the release of his solo debut, Amplified (the jazzy full-band mishmash Kamaal the Abstract and the more conventional Open are only available as online bootlegs), and in the meantime, he’s become better known to a new generation as a stylish Hollywood sidekick (hitting clubs with Leonardo Di Caprio, dating Nicole Kidman). It spoke to us, just being young and having our own energy, our own clothes, the way we spoke, our own art. My sister is six years older than me, so she was taking me to block parties or jams. By then, Grandmaster Flash was a legend in the Bronx.But with The Renaissance, set for release in September, the Abstract Poetic MC may have rediscovered his groove. My first memory of hip-hop was this block party, and there was a disco record by Karen Young called “Hot Shot.” It was summer, about the end of June.By dint of his assimilationist tendencies -- Tip was the first hip-hop guy to sample Lou Reed, after all -- the Queens, New York, rapper-producer effectively broke the glass ceiling segregating rappers from other movers and shakers on the pop cultural landscape.

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But just one day before his second solo disc, “The Renaissance,” hits retail -– and at a moment when hip-hop artists such as Kanye West and Pharrell Williams have largely transcended their rap roots to become tastemakers and early influencers across the cultural spectrum -– it’s informative to look back at the trail Q-Tip blazed outside making some of the most head-nodding, forward-thinking music of rap’s “golden age.” It’s hard to imagine a time when Hollywood and hip-hop were like chalk and cheese. During a conversation at director Ridley Scott’s production company office complex in August, he reminisced about catching A Tribe Called Quest at the 1993 Lollapalooza and talked up his buddy’s music. "It's amazing." Q-Tip had been staying with the “Titanic” star in Los Angeles that week, he but refused to play “The Renaissance” for Di Caprio, insisting “it wasn’t finished yet.” Like everybody else, the actor had to wait.

But in the mid-'90s, Q-Tip was one of the first rap stars to bro down with actor friends and regularly hobknob with movie stars. “I’ve been saying to him for seven years, ‘When are you going to put out the record?

He attended Murry Bergtraum High School in Lower Manhattan and, as an early fan of hip hop, adopted the name MC Love Child.

This he switched to Q-Tip, a name given to him by schoolmate and future Jungle Brother, Afrika Baby Bam.