Although maligned upon its release in 1999, due mostly to the fact that it wasn’t A Tribe Called Quest album, Amplified has developed a good reputation over the years. Produced entirely by Jay Dee, a.k.a. J Dilla, the Detroit beatsmith whose unique vision and untimely death have since turned him into an icon, Q-Tip’s debut easily distinguishes itself from the rap clichés of its era. While superstars like Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, and DMX were inflating their songs to epic proportions, Amplified was agile and elastic. The sounds and textures of “Wait Up” and “Higher” are eccentric, but Q-Tip never sacrifices the groove for the sake of experimentation. Every song pulls the listener in with a propulsive low end. And even if longtime fans were not quite ready for Q-Tip to emphasize his homegrown pimp persona, he sounds like he’s having more fun here than he did on the last two Tribe records put together. As hip-hop has grown beyond the sonic excesses of the late ‘90s, fans have come to appreciate Amplified as a clever, unassuming, and even subtly innovative entry in this hip-hop hero’s slim catalog.

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