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What? In the rap game it’s all about credentials, and Q-Tip has ’em: From his 1989 appearance on De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising to Tribe Called Quest’s 1993 magnum opus Midnight Marauders and his collaborations with the likes of Slum Village, Busta Rhymes, and R.E.M., the New York rapper Q-Tip is a hip-hop renaissance man. And his latest album, aptly titled The Renaissance, is possibly his best in terms of both artistic and commercial accessibility. Mostly produced by rapper himself, the new set sees Tip grooving on dance-floor ready beats, while pushing his more experimental side.

Who? Born in New York City in 1970, Q-Tip, a.k.a. Jonathan Davis co-founded Tribe Called Quest in 1988 with his fellow students Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Phide (Malik Taylor). “Description of a Fool,” the Tribe’s debut single appeared the following year, leading to a deal with Jive Records and the group’s 1990 debut, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. A beacon in the rap scene with his socially conscious and intelligent lyrics, Tip was a sought-after collaborative force and producer, appearing on scores of his contemporaries’ albums, as well as producing and mixing songs for the likes of Nas to Mariah Carey.

After the Tribe split in 1998, Q-Tip found himself in the limelight with “Vibrant Thing,” the lead single off his 1999 solo debut, Amplified, which was produced by longtime collaborator and Slum Village member, the late J Dilla. In the last decade, Tip has released only one album, 2002’s Kamaal the Abstract, a collection featuring not just rapping but also singing, which was delayed after being deemed too uncommercial by his label. During this time he was heavily involved in production and album cameos, including his work with Jay-Z on the Blueprint, Black Eyed Peas, and even Sergio Mendes.

Fun Fact: The “Q” in Q-Tip’s nom de rap, refers to Queens, the New York borough from which he is from.

Watch: Two video’s from Q-Tip’s new record The Renaissance below.

“Gettin’ Up”