Last week, Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip announced that they would be releasing a collaborative mixtape, and shared the track "Butch & Sundance." That mixtape, The Abstract & The Dragon, is now available to stream and download for free.
As Busta lets us know in the mixtape's intro, he and Tip spend the better part of The Abstract & The Dragon trying to "bring that feel-good, boom-bap shit back to life." Jazzy, low-key, A Tribe Called Quest-esque beats abound, as do verbose, no-nonsense verses. The message is clear: Busta and Tip are trying to recreate their '90s heyday. Nothing has screamed "nostalgia" so loudly since Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days."
That being said, it's easy to see how two boom-bap purists feel disillusioned with the current state of hip-hop. The flashy hi-hats, high-octane synths and violent Chicago drill scene of today run in total opposition to the traditionalist, "beats 'n rhymes" formula that Busta and Tip proliferated in the early '90s. Arguably, 2013's biggest breakout sensations in the rap game (Migos) are the antithesis of boom-bap purism.
When considering those back-to-basics goals, The Abstract & The Dragon is surprisingly fun. "Hip Hop is Dead" this ain't. Skits keep the mixtape light and loose, and the beats are usually interesting enough to avoid being deemed ATCQ facsimiles. In particular, the title track deftly treads the line between retro and fresh, showcasing a satisfyingly relaxed flow from Busta and a woozy beat courtesy of Tip. Another sure-fire highlight is the Talib Kweli-assisted "Lightworks," in which a classic J Dilla beat is repurposed as a posse cut for middle-aged NYC rappers.
Though its 28 tracks may seem a daunting listen, The Abstract & The Dragon breezes by like any number of light-hearted, bromantic Hollywood comedies. There are old tracks, new tracks, remixes and plenty of not-so-subtle references that will delight fans of old-school New York hip-hop.