With A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip helped perfect a delicate brand of sophisticated, neo-bohemian jazz-rap that won over college campuses like few rap acts before or since. His first solo record, 1999's Amplified, represented a radical departure that traded in ATCQ's chilled-out, college-friendly vibe for a herky-jerky dance-rap sound and a faintly ridiculous Buppie makeover. The rapper's second solo album, Kamaal The Abstract, marks an even more striking change in sound, as Q-Tip chucks his dancing shoes and upscale wardrobe in favor of a homemade, self-consciously bohemian brand of jazz-funk fusion that bears only a passing resemblance to rap. Like such similarly overreaching, fusion-happy albums as John Forté's I, John, Kamaal The Abstract is powered by manic ambition and stylistic inconsistency. That's certainly the case here, as a crooning Q-Tip shambles from trippy jazz-funk to Prince-like soul to coffeehouse-ready jazz and back again, with countless detours along the way. Kamaal The Abstract shares Amplified's devotion to repetitious grooves and mantra-like lyrics, but where that album felt like a crass, reductive move toward the mainstream, Abstract sounds like the sort of disc that gets rappers released from their contracts. Of course, jazz was always a major component of A Tribe Called Quest's sound, but there's a world of difference between the sampled jazz perfection of The Low End Theory and the homemade, enthusiastic jazz Q-Tip and his collaborators cook up here. Alternately sublime and aimless, Abstract is the sound of an artist evolving on wax, and while the growing pains show, they also help make the music surprisingly resonant. Though it isn't nearly as assured as ATCQ's best work, it's invigorating to listen to a relaxed and playful Q-Tip follow his muse ever further off the beaten path.

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