The 1980s and early-1990s were a fantastic time for hip-hop and saw an expansion of the genre with more alternative artists beginning to break through. As well as acts such as De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest were an integral part of this incredible shift. Q-Tip was a crucial player in the movement and continued to prosper as a solo artist.
The Queens emcee (real name Jonathan Davis), encouraged by A Tribe Called Quest counterpart Phife Dawg, led what was dubbed as a “jazz-based hip-hop revolution” in the ’90s and, unlike his crewmates, continued to grow during the 2000s. As well as being a lyricist, Davis is also an audio engineer and producer and has worked with the likes of Nas, Kanye West and singer Raphael Saadiq.
During his career as a solo artist, he released several successful solo albums. His second project, The Renaissance, which was released in 2008, debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200 and was a Grammy-nominated body of work. The album boasted hits such as ‘Gettin Up’ and ‘Move.’ Although Davis received critical acclaim for his projects as a solo act, he faced many issues concerning his record label. In 2001, shortly after the success of his 1999 debut album, the pioneer was ready to release his sophomore project. However, after being postponed by his label, it was shelved by Arista Records due to their assertion it didn’t have mainstream appeal.
Davis had to endure an unfathomable amount of label-hopping during the 2000s. In a 2007 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Queens musician explained, “Russell [Simmons] told me I should stay at Arista. So I did that, and I gave [the album] to L.A. Reid, who wound up taking over. And he heard the album, really liked it, whatever. We started servicing it to press — and then he just got cold feet about it.”
He continued, “I went over to DreamWorks and recorded an album called Open. And then DreamWorks got bought out [in 2003], so the whole label fell apart. Then I wound up on Interscope for like a month or two. I had like one conversation with Jimmy Iovine. It was a good conversation. And then I wound up at Geffen for like a year and a half.” Although Q-Tip’s solo material wasn’t getting the green light, he was regularly getting calls for features and production work. The Tribe Called Quest act even helped Kanye West with his 2010 project, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
In spite of all the politics of the music industry and barriers Davis faced, his gold-certified debut album, Amplified, will remain an iconic body of work. Boasting hit singles ‘Vivrant Thing’ and ‘Breathe and Stop’, the project was hailed as a masterpiece. In 2008, while co-headlining the NBA 2K Bounce Tour alongside The Cool Kids, the emcee performed his debut single ‘Vivrant Thing’ at the Chicago House Of Blues and, to the surprise of many, he was joined on stage by the iconic late singer Prince.
You can watch the pair perform the track in the video below.