Widely regarded as one of hip-hop’s top MCs, Q-Tip finally released his long-awaited second solo effort, “The Renaissance,” late last year as the followup to 1999’s “Amplified.” The nine-year gap is one the American rapper might rather forget.
Rising to prominence as a member of the seminal 1990s hip-hop act A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip fully intended to issue his second solo effort in 2002. Titled “Kamaal the Abstract,” promotional copies were distributed to media outlets before Arista Records canceled its release, fearing that it didn’t sound commercial enough. Signing on with DreamWorks Records, he completed another album, “Open,” in 2005. But the imprint soon folded, causing the disc to meet a fate similar to that of its predecessor.
With two strikes against him, Q-Tip pushed on — crafting more new music and hooking up with Universal Records. The major cured what must have been one hell of an industry-induced migraine by unveiling the acclaimed “The Renaissance” in November.
The dozen soulful songs presented are just a fraction of the 500 tracks Q-Tip claims to have stockpiled while trying to get a proper record out. In an interview with U.S. magazine Spin last summer, he said he’d like to eventually make most of them available to fans, possibly through different mix-tape-styled compilations.
In February, Q-Tip will be making his first live appearances in Japan since playing 2005’s Summer Sonic festival. A brief 10-date headlining stint with a reunited A Tribe Called Quest during last summer’s Rock the Bells hip-hop festival, which toured the United States, helped tighten up his live skills for his subsequent North American dates in support of “The Renaissance,” which saw him backed by a five-piece band and EPMD’s DJ Scratch. If the glowing reviews bestowed upon the fall jaunt are to be believed, Japan’s rap fans are in for a real treat.
Q-Tip plays Feb. 10 at O-East, Tokyo (8 p.m.; ¥7,000;  5458-4681); and Feb. 11 at Bay Hall, Yokohama (7 p.m.; ¥7,000;  624-3900). For more information, visit www.creativeman.co.jp