Four questions with Q-Tip
Thu, Nov 13, 2008 (midnight)
You just went nine years between officially released albums. Is it accurate to characterize you as a perfectionist?
Yeah, that’s true. If I had my druthers, I’d probably still be going. But at some point you have to just throw the colors up there.
You produced every track except one on [November 4 release] The Renaissance—the J Dilla-produced “Move.” Having worked together so closely over the years, how much has he impacted your work since his  death?
Such an influence. Such an influence on me. I have people saying, “Yo, did Dilla do ‘Gettin’ Up’?” I’m like, “Nah, I did it.” That’s my boy.
Your album’s Election Day release date: coincidence or timed to coincide?
I didn’t purposefully do it; it just kinda happened like that. But [when I realized it], it just felt right, even more so because the album is called The Renaissance. I feel like America has been searching for a renaissance politically for some time, and hopefully Barack is the signifying figure in that. I also feel like we in hip-hop have been talking about the same thing, about hip-hop coming back to where it was, and hopefully this album will exist in a pantheon of [quality] albums from artists to come.
How significant did Obama’s victory feel to you personally?
It’s important to me as a black man to know that America would be able to see beyond her historical shortcomings and insecurities to look at the merit of a person inside and not judge them based on their skin color. It was a major accomplishment; kudos to America.
I’m also happy about the fact that hip-hop had a lot to do with it. Because for the past 30-some-odd years, hip-hop has softened the exterior of middle America and white America to people of color. It’s a beautiful thing that a brother like you, right now, is interviewing me. Hip-hop, in some way, struck a chord in you and resonated in you and brought you and me, right now, to have this conversation—whether it be from a Run-D.M.C. video on MTV or Ice Cube on The Arsenio Hall Show or a Public Enemy/Tribe Called Quest show or whatever. That kind of discussion, that kind of environment, that kind of accessibility to middle America for people of color through their music and through their expression has proven to be far more valuable than anybody thought it would be at the onset, and has enabled somebody like Barack Obama to capture the presidency and the hearts and minds of America and the world.