Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Shaheedullah & Stereotypes

BY Del F. CowiePublished Dec 1, 2004

While Ali Shaheed Muhammad was an integral part of legendary hip-hop trio A Tribe Called Quest, production in the group, was shared at points with Q-Tip and in the group’s latter stages with Detroit maestro J-Dilla. On this record and a new imprint to his name, Ali makes a confident step into solo territory, while the status of new music from ATCQ, currently doing reunion tour dates, remains in flux. While kicks, snares and rhythm patterns reminiscent of Tribe’s heyday and strains of his Lucy Pearl project appear, the musical excursions on this record seek to build on rather than relying on the past. Performing as a multi-instrumentalist, Mohammed doesn’t collaborate with big names in the studio, unless you count Chip-Fu of the Fu-Schnickens, but enlists virtuoso session players like Spanky Alford and Stokley Williams of Mint Condition who would be familiar to voracious liner note readers. Over the loosely knit grooves, Muhammad flexes his heretofore unheard vocals on many tracks where he rhymes as well as sings. To his credit, Muhammad doesn’t try to overextend himself in this area, letting the grooves guide his vocals and his technical proficiency and message-oriented lyrics avoiding the cringe-worthy results that could have easily been generated. His lyrics do rail against mainstream rap caricatures ("Industry/Life”), but mainly expound on his deep spirituality and viewpoint of being a Muslim in America. The latter point is addressed on "Elevated Orange,” underlining Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s enviable ability to balance his message and his music.

Latest Coverage