Reason Featured: #48 Album for NME’s Top Fifty Albums of 2000,
My Favorite Songs: Wait Up, Breathe and Stop, Let’s Ride, N.T.
Their Grades: Rolling Stone (3.5/5), NME (8/10), Pitchfork (6.8/10), Robert Christgau (A)
My Grade: 87%
I’ll put it to you this way: if you’re hankering for a record featuring a shirtless black man on the cover from 2000, you’d be better off with D’Angelo’s Voodoo than Q-Tip’s Amplified. This is about the best means of comparison I can come up with considering I’m woefully behind on checking out A Tribe Called Quest’s discography. Ergo, it’s hard to see how Q-Tip’s solo debut stacks up next to earlier collaborative work with that group.
You can take this whole shirtless analogy even further. Q-Tip stands arms-outstretched on his record’s cover, adorned in a grandiose coat and flanked by his postmodern posse. D’Angelo may be chiseled and impressive but its just him staring at the camera. Both poses typify what’s found therein. Amplified is a social record, one to put on when you and your friends want to bop your head while Voodoo is much more subtle, confident and demanding pensive listening.
Enough with this shirtless thing though before anyone thinks I’ve developed some bizarre fixation. Amplified is a hell of a good time even if there isn’t much here that’ll knock you backward in the kind of reverence Q-Tip seems to have for himself on the cover. The keyboard work on here is the real star, followed closely by the fluid but still edged-out raps themselves. (How can you resist the rapper role call on “Let’s Ride” in particular?) Contained here are glitchy beats shift to keep you partying; the songs on here have names like “All In,” “Go Hard,” and “Do It” so what would you expect? And as far as parties go, this is a pretty fun one to attend even if the host’s a bit more cocksure than he should be. Korn may be there (“End of Time”) but so’s J Dilla (co-produced every track with Q-Tip besides “Do It” and “N.T.,” which were handled by DJ Scratch). Everything evens out.