Pop: This Week's Album Releases

Q-TIP Amplified Arista
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The Independent Culture
ASTONISHINGLY, THIS is the first solo album from the Tribe Called Quest rapper, despite a career stretching back as far as 1989 - plenty of time for virtually every inhabitant of the borough of Staten Island to release an album under the Wu-Tang Clan aegis.

What kept him? Whatever the reason, it's been worth the wait for Q-Tip's idiosyncratic take on standard hip-hop mores, from his search for new coinings for old-skool bragging tracks such as "Wait Up" and "Higher" ("I'm so irregular/ Ear for the cellular") to his decision to extol the virtues of a Rover - albeit one with a television in the back - in the car rap "Let's Ride".

Most revolutionary of all, in the irresistible, springy single "Vivrant Thing" he even confronts the hip-hop terror of cunnilingus, usually regarded as demeaning rather than devotional in the frightened, macho world of rap.

But with his plea to "push it to my level, let the G evolve", and his assertion that "I don't do `bitch' / I don't do tricks / I stay doin' me while you stay layin' bricks", it's the track "Go Hard" that offers Q-Tip's most concentrated effort at raising peer-group consciousness.

"Now picture this," he marvels, "a man with his whole life in order." How weird is that?