This mixtape starts with Busta Rhymes’ standard talk slow as hell over a beat intro. He says that he’s known Q-Tip for a long time and their chemistry is great. This begs the question, “well then why the hell didn’t you two make an album yet?!” Luckily, the second half of the intro is somebody asking pretty much that exact question. Unfortunately, there is no answer given.
Instead, the immediate next sound is the beginning of A Tribe Called Quest’s God Lives Through.
Sigh. A very old, but also very good ATCQ song. Don’t ruin it guys!
Busta talks for a bit (I’m already tired of his talking by the point), then spits a random verse that doesn’t match the vibe of the song at all. After his verse, the song transitions to the original version. In it’s entirety. Unchanged. Phife and Q-Tip’s verses are mixed very differently from Busta’s verse, and it seems that no one could be bothered to make sure it all meshed sonically.
Ugh. So that’s what we’ve got ahead of us? Lazy mixes? Random verses on the other guy’s old songs? A lack of care? Of new collaboration?
Yup. That’s what this is. Minus the new verses on old songs, because God Lives Through is the only example of that. Those could have been pretty interesting. Picture Q-Tip dropping a verse on Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See. How does that not end up dope? Instead, this is a mish-mash of remixes, b-sides, and soundtrack and album cuts, along with a small amount of new music. Two thirds of the songs are old, leaving just 6 new ones. God Lives Through doesn’t count as new because it’s ruined by keeping the original verses. The cherry on the top is that 8 of the 28 tracks are time-wasting skits where people just talk. UGH!
I pretty much knew what I was walking into so I’m not surprised, but I’m still disappointed because the missed opportunity is so big. The new songs show that Q-Tip with Busta Rhymes can make good music, right now. They should get to doing that! Right now! Stop teasing us!
As I implied, most of the old songs demand skippage. They may sound cool on paper, but I’m not interested in Come On Down, the so-so song they did with Big Daddy Kane, nor Steppin’ It Up, another average song but this time with Phife and Redman. The only old songs here worth playing are Q-Tip’s Renaissance Rap Remix (great verses from everyone, including Lil Wayne(!)), Lightworks, and You Can’t Hold The Torch. Those last two have great Jay Dilla beats that inevitably outshine everyone and Tip’s Lightworks verse is excellent.
The new songs are hit or miss but enough are good that I still think a true Q-Tip/Busta Rhymes album could be awesome. The fast-paced verses and R&B sample make Thank You perfect while The Abstract And The Dragon is also perfect even though Q-Tip’s only contribution is the laid-back beat that sounds like everything good about Beats, Rhymes, and Life. We Takin’ Off is great too but here the lack of a Q-Tip verse hurts the song.
The other three new songs are bad in head-scratching ways. Butch and Sundance somehow never rises above the boredom that its juke joint groove beat induces. But I recognize that I might be in the minority about that song. Meanwhile, For The Nasty is inescapably terrible. A tinny Neptunes throwaway accompanies Busta and Q-Tip’s horrible verses that go nowhere. I have no idea why this song exists. Tagging along on that trip to nowhere is Pardon My Ways. This a snippet (who still wastes time with snippets?!) of a song from Busta’s
sure to be much worse than the first forthcoming E.L.E. 2 album. The beat is decent enough with its random piano plinks, but Busta ruins it by talking about nothing in patois, then continuing to wallow in nothingness with a bad verse. Again, why does this exist? And why is it here?
Because care wasn’t put into this mixtape. A few new songs were made, and the decision was made to fill the rest of the cd with whatever else could be found. Some of that filler is good, most isn’t. The final, perfectly vile insult is that The Abstract And The Dragon ends with the Vivrant Thing Remix, Ill Vibe (a good but really old song they did for Busta’s first album), and both mixes of Scenario. The effort to fill space is painfully obvious.
Although it’s packaged like a new collaboration, Te Abstract And The Dragon is disappointing even as a simple log of the intersections of these two careers. The bad and merely ok songs that they made together don’t need more exposure. The new songs would have more for a decent EP with the good old songs as bonus tracks. Stretching things into a full mixtape just ends up serving as a reminder that even the great ones falter, sometimes a lot.
props to Brian Josephs of The Boombox for his helpful review which lists all songs with their origins