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Q-Tip and Leonardo DiCaprio: the bromance

November 3, 2008 |  2:16 pm

Qtip Nine long years.

That’s how long it's been since Q-Tip, the iconic “conscious” rapper and primary producer for beloved '90s rap quartet A Tribe Called Quest, last put out a collection of music as a solo artist.

An earlier Times story traces his new album's twisty-turny odyssey from ProTools to iTunes.

But just one day before his second solo disc, “The Renaissance,” hits retail -– and at a moment when hip-hop artists such as Kanye West and Pharrell Williams have largely transcended their rap roots to become tastemakers and early influencers across the cultural spectrum -– it’s informative to look back at the trail Q-Tip blazed outside making some of the most head-nodding, forward-thinking music of rap’s “golden age.”

It’s hard to imagine a time when Hollywood and hip-hop were like chalk and cheese. But in the mid-'90s, Q-Tip was one of the first rap stars to bro down with actor friends and regularly hobknob with movie stars. By dint of his assimilationist tendencies -- Tip was the first hip-hop guy to sample Lou Reed, after all -- the Queens, New York, rapper-producer effectively broke the glass ceiling segregating rappers from other movers and shakers on the pop cultural landscape.

Leo300 To wit: Around 1994, he befriended Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, solidifying a camaraderie that lasts to this day. He also dated Nicole Kidman for a brief spell.

“Leo -- that’s one of my best friends and I’m one of his,” Q-Tip said during an interview that took place over sushi in New York last spring. “That’s just my boy. Tobey’s my boy. We all love sports. We’re all into politics. We all have a stake in the artistic community. We all have a lot of similar interests. I [fraternize] with Slick Rick in the same way.”

To hear it from DiCaprio, the feeling is mutual.

During a conversation at director Ridley Scott’s production company office complex in August, he reminisced about catching A Tribe Called Quest at the 1993 Lollapalooza and talked up his buddy’s music. "So, so great," DiCaprio said. "It's amazing."

Q-Tip had been staying with the “Titanic” star in Los Angeles that week, he but refused to play “The Renaissance” for DiCaprio, insisting “it wasn’t finished yet.” Like everybody else, the actor had to wait.

“I’ve been saying to him for seven years, ‘When are you going to put out the record?’ ” DiCaprio said. “He’s such an artist. He wants it to be perfect.”

-- Chris Lee

Top photo courtesy qtiponline.com; bottom from Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times