EW gets a sneak peak at the legendary rapper's long-awaited ''Renaissance'' album

By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated August 31, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s been eight years since Q-Tip, cofounder of seminal alt-rap group A Tribe Called Quest, released his solo debut, Amplified. After bouncing from label to label — recording two unreleased albums along the way — he’s readying his second effort, The Renaissance, which Universal Motown will drop in early ’08. In the NYC studio where he’s mixing the CD, an optimistic Q-Tip played us a few tracks.

Like most of his new songs, this one features motivational lyrics set to the beats of a live, five-piece jazz/funk band. ”I have to do it for me, just like you do it for you,” he raps over a chilled-out groove. Explains Q-Tip: ”It’s a statement about self-preservation.”

A falsetto from OutKast’s André 3000 intertwines with Q-Tip’s own vocals on this playful yet politically conscious jam about love and war. ”It’s a singing-rappers stew!” Q-Tip jokes. ”[André] a wildly creative person.”

Longtime collaborator J Dilla, who died last year at age 32 of a rare blood disease, produced the intricate pattern of finely diced synths that backs Q-Tip’s uplifting lyrics (”You gotta have a fever for something good”). ”Since he’s passed,” says Q-Tip, ”I wanted to include the track.”