Friday 20 April 2012

The Kool Skool Interviews DJ ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD (A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, The Ummah & Lucy Pearl)

The Kool Skool Interviews 


(A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, The Ummah & Lucy Pearl)

To celebrate the The Doctors Orders DJ Nu-Mark vs. DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammed Soundclash, The Kool Skool presents an interview with Hip-Hop Legend, DJ, Super Producer, Conscious deep thinker and MC Ali Shaheed Muhammed! 

For many, A Tribe Called Quest represents a time and place in Hip-Hop when a strong sense of individuality was imperative, and variety was the spice of life. A Tribe Called Quest embodied the concept of the Native Tongues, a Zulu Nation loosely linked super crew consisting of Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Monie Love, Queen Latifah, Black Sheep, Fu-Schnickins, Chi-AliDa Bush BabeesLeaders of the New School and later Mos Def, Consequense, Common, and others. Tribe linked Jazz, real DJ Cuts, Rhymes, chopped Breaks, humour, abstract conscious thought with B-boy style to create a unique style; a style that influenced many of todays modern Hip-Hop's greats.

The Tribe Vibe
Q-Tip,  Phife Dog, Jarobe, Ali Shaheed Muhammed & Consequence ("It's The Conse-Fool - WORD")

Because of A Tribe Called Quest and many of the Native Tongues enormous commercial popularity, looking back many old school people forget, and new schoolers are oblivious of the importance of the message they were giving. The concepts of Brotherhood, Family, Conscious words, Positivity, Staying True, Originality and Love flowed heavily in their lyrics and their whole aura. Sure, many people connected with the smoothness of the production, but commercially, and lyrically, they refused to compromise, even as Hip-Hop turned into the Thuggish-Ruggish Rap of the early 90's. 

The Lost Tribes - Rare & Unreleased Tribe Compilation

Over those many years, Tribe dropped 5 Albums, and after the group split in 1998, the members released several solo ventures and racked up productions for many of Hip-Hop's greatest records. Ali Shaheed Muhammed has since gone on to as a member of "The Ummah" - Super Producer Crew consisting of Raphael Saadiq, Q-Tip Jay Dilla and Ali Shaheed Muhammed; also a member of Lucy Pearl alongside Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Toné!, and Dawn Robinson of En Vogue, and in 2004  independently released his debut solo album Shaheedullah and Stereotypes.

For those of you familiar with The Kool Skool, you will come to expect more in depth questions, than other sites. So The Kool Skool asked Ali Shaheed Muhammed to discuss Consciousness, life changing Books, Islam in Modern Rap, The Recent Documentary "Beats, Rhymes and Life" - The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, Lucy Pearl and the future of "The Ummah", and more, here is the result!

The Kool Skool Interviews DJ ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD

What is one of the most positive experiences or memories you have experienced as an Artist?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: There are so many positive experiences that I can not single out one as the most positive. There have been times when fans tell me that our music has helped them through a difficult period in their life. Hearing that is always touching. It makes me feel like all the struggles & difficulties we overcame to get our music out there served a purpose for the greater good.   

ATCQ - Strong Foundation

Being a recording artist for so long now, what is the greatest lesson you feel you have learned?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: I am not sure if this lesson is a direct result of just being a recording artist or maturity, but I have learned that expressions of compassion and love in the music outweighs and outlives all else. 

The recently released documentary

There has been a lot of recent increased interest in Tribe due to the release of the Tribe Film. Are you happy with the way it portrayed the group?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: I feel that the Beats, Rhymes and Life documentary was limited but fair.

The way that it was marketed, it appeared that it was just a behind the scenes expose’ on the complex relationship of Phife & Q-tip, and even potentially damaging to Tribe’s very mission.

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: I have heard that is some people's viewpoint on the marketing of the film. 

Jungle Brothers (Afrika Baby Bam) Building on the decline of the Native Tongues
& The Beats, Rhymes and Life documentary
Excellent Part 4 of 4 part Breakbeats & Rhymes Radio Interview

I saw a recent interview with Mike Gee (Jungle Brothers), and when he was approached to be a part he was under the impression that it would be a Native Tongue Documentary. Was that the original idea, and then it developed into a Tribe film?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: That is interesting, I did not know this. Our sole purpose was to make a documentary about A Tribe Called Quest. We were not privy to the conversations the director had with the participants so we don't know what was said or promised. I will say that I hope this isn't true.

Jungle Brothers - "Doin' Our Own Dang" The track featured some of The Native Tongues; 
De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Monie Love & Tribe Called Quest

Did individual success of the Tribe & De La cause problems for the dynamics within the Native Tongues?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: No it wasn't the individual success of Tribe and De La that caused problems, I believe the dynamic of egos and a lack of communication is what led to the estrangement of the Native Tongues.


Due to the universal success of the Native Tongues did you feel somewhat creatively pigeon-holed? Did you feel that you as a group had to represent a certain way, or stay in a certain lane?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: Absolutely not, Jungle was Jungle, De La was De La (they still are even under the First Serve tag) and Tribe was Tribe. We all had an identity that was different, unique and special. 

A Tribe Called Quest "Description Of A Fool" From Their Debut album Peoples Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm

For myself, and others, “Description of a Fool” was such an amazing song, and interesting subject matter, why was it not released on People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm? Was it a label decision, or were you not pleased with it? Was it a bit too controversial for the direction of the group for a debut album?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: Seriously!? That was soooo long ago, I don't remember. I know that we were pleased with it, no one ever thought the song was controversial. We were always in the mind state to make things special, I would think it was to add value to our first 12 inch or single but as I said that was a long time ago.

ATCQ -"Stop The Violence!" Crew Jackets

When Tribe first started out it really felt like a 4 Man crew, and as time progressed, it just felt like it was just about Phife & Q-tip. Was that a conscious decision? 

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: When Tribe started it was a four man crew, then Jarobi was out of the scene. After that point it was a three man crew. I never had the perspective that it was about Phife & Q-Tip. I guess since they were in the forefront some people perceived that it was just about Phife & Q-Tip. 

RARE A Tribe Called Quest 1990 Era T.V. Interview From N.Y. T.V. *The Kool Skool Exclusive*

I have seen several older interviews with Tribe and you are the more outspoken member in many of them. Was it difficult to almost have to take a step back vocally in the group, and take a position behind the wheels and boards?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: Take a step back vocally? There wasn't anything to consider, I wasn't an emcee.

Jungle Brothers & A Tribe Called Quest - Dutch TV special 1990

In one of the interviews ^, you discuss the importance of "Knowledge of Self". How important was it for you learn those lessons and where did that journey begin?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: It is mystifying trying to pinpoint where the journey and lessons of Knowledge of Self began. It may have began with songs like "Word from Our Sponsor" by BDP, or "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force or "Wake Up Everybody" by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. Maybe it was something that my parents instilled in me from birth, learned through their own life experiences or from being passed down through the generations. I don't know when it began, but I do know it is easier to see your path, walk it and to know to change direction if needed when you have Knowledge of Self.

Zulu Zone You!
The Mighty Zulu Nation Representers Phife & Q-Tip with "The Amen-Ra" - Afrika Bambaataa

If you could suggest 5 Conscious or Knowledge books that were important to you, and why, or ones you suggest for people who are trying to educate themselves:

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: 

1. Holy Quran

2. Holy Bible - preferably pre King James

3. Bhagavad Gita

4. Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book

5. Decoded

For more suggested reading & conscious Hip-Hop thought check out: The Kool Skool's Shucks One Interviews Conscious MC Jasiri X

As one of the last mainstream, more consciously inclined Hip-Hop groups over the years, was that a hard position to play? Was it a burden, or a blessing? Did you feel you had to release certain songs, or you just did what you wanted to?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: We were the children that were born just past the American civil rights movement. It was in our DNA to be illustrative musically of adversity, hope, unity, liberation etc. There was no burden, it was and is truly instinctive.

As the most openly Muslim member of the crew early on, was it important for you to be known under your Islamic name as opposed to as say, a “DJ Dope” Hip-Hop style name?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: It was the most befit name when it came time to put the tracks down, as it was when my parents named me. I guess it was truly a born destiny.

Today within mainstream Hip-Hop there is a refreshing look back towards consciousness and Islam in particular in a positive light. Not that it is any persons role to judge another, do you have difficulty personally, seeing some rappers claiming aspects of Islam, while living a contradiction in there lyrics, life style and imagery?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: I am not here to judge any other person on Earth, I am here to mind my own life and actions. I pray that The Creator guides me righteously, strengthens me when I'm weak, and softens me when I'm too hard and I pray The Creator does the same for my brothers and sisters out there on the path be they mainstream Hip-Hop artist or not.

ATCQ - The Source Magazine Cover

I have interviewed many Old School Artists, and one of the things I hear a lot is that modern Hip-Hop is very one dimensional. As someone who has always strived to remain individual, do you believe that is true, or is that image changing now?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: I don't believe that today's modern Hip-Hop artist are one dimensional, however I believe that only a "one dimensional" side of those that are in the mainstream is being exploited. There are many Hip-Hop artist that express the many facets of life but they don't receive the same exposure as the mainstream artist. 

As you have been a DJ for many years, how do you feel about the explosion of “Celebrity” or Rapper-turned DJ’s?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: It is my belief that if James Brown and Barry White where alive and popping off in this era they would be dj's. I'm sure that in some way they were. It's not a matter of a rapper-turned dj, it's just a matter of practice, practice, practice. It is only through practice that we become masters at any given thing, those are my feelings.

As you are still a gigging DJ, how do you approach it? Do you play what you want, or do you feel that you have to facilitate tracks that are “hot”, that you might not feel personally?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: Yes I still DJ. I am blessed to play what I want at my gigs, within reason of course. I am a music lover. I run the gamut of music in my set and there are times when someone is upset that I switched selections from one genre to another instead of staying consistent to one specific genre. My take is open your mind, it's all Universal, specifically Universal Zulu Nation. We (meaning music) come from the same place. If you don't like the moment I'm in, leave or go tune in to your local radio station, I'm sure their monotonous, I mean "consistent" playlist will keep you happy. Oh yeah and "NO REQUEST" :-D

Ali Shaheed Muhammed, Dawn "from Envogue" & Raphael Saddiq

How did Lucy Pearl come about? Did you have previous relationships with En Vogue & Raphel Saddiq?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: Saadiq has been like a brother to me since Tony Toni Tone's "The Revival" Album. He introduced me to D'Angelo's music. That is how I came to work on "Brown Sugar". Saadiq, D'Angelo and I would often come together to make music for fun. One day we decided to make a group, but when it was time to get serious "D" was recording Voodoo. Saadiq and I still wanted to pursue it the concept. He thought to add Dawn to the mix, the rest is history.

Was it refreshing for you to branch out of a strictly Hip-Hop environment?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: I wouldn't say it was refreshing, it was just me being me, me being a musically expressive artist. There wouldn't be Hip-Hop if it were not for R&B, Jazz and Rock & Roll, it is all relative to me. 

Why did you never release another Lucy Pearl Album? Is there any chance a re-union? 

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: The music business has a way of chewing you up and spitting you out. There were hurdles that became to challenging to jump over, that is why we didn't release another album. The answer to will there be  another Lucy Pearl album is the same answer as another ATCQ album, I don't know. 

"The Ummah" - Super Producer Crew consisting of Raphael Saadiq, Q-Tip Jay Dilla and Ali Shaheed Muhammed

How did the Ummah come about?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: Good question, I might have to get back to you on that one.

With the sad passing of Jay Dilla, are you and Q-Tip still working under that name? If so do you have any upcoming projects?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: We do not still work under that name, the Ummah as a production team dissolved more than a decade ago.

Many Tribe fans aren’t familiar as an MC. When did you decide to focus on that, was it something you have always did on the low?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: The decision to seriously purse the path toward Emceeing came in 2003. It was in an effort to help advance people that were in my care. It just fell into place.

You have released several albums, where do you start in the creative process, is a concept, or a sound construct?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: Sometimes the creative process begins with a concept, sometimes it begins with a rhythm or a dope loop, sometimes it begins with a bass line dancing around in my head. Whatever the inspiration, I strive to chase it where ever it takes me.

Ali Shaheed Muhammed Recent Solo Album -  Shaheedullah and Stereotypes

Are you working on a new Album, or new music?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: I am working on a new album. I have been working on it for a while, now. I believe I have started over three times. I gotta keep on it until it is right. 

Is there anything you would like to say to the fans?

Ali Shaheed Muhammed: Most of all I want to thank all of my supporters through the 25 years I've been making music. Thank you for allowing my music into your world. May you find peace in your pursuit of life. Salaam

Special thanks to The Doctors Orders! For some of the most exciting True School Hip-Hop events in the UK check out

For a direct link to The Kool Skool's Shucks One online selection of the 200 plus interviews with Hip-Hop Legends check out

The Kool Skool interviews DJ Rob Swift
Member of the X-Men, X-Ecutioners, Recording Artist & Akinyele’s DJ Here


The Kool Skool Family UK DEEJAY SKAMROK CUTTIN' CLASSIC BREAKBEAT 45's AT THE The Bronx Boys Rocking Crew 36th ANNIVERSARY JAM BRONX!!! Legends were in attendance from crews such as TBB (obviously), Rock Steady Crew, Zulu Kings, Incredible Breakers, Dynasty Rockers, Mastermind Rockers and more!

YES 45's!!!!!!


Check out 1 hour of the toughest original breaks strictly for the B-Boys and B-Girls.

In this time Deejay Skamrok will rock your mind and body on a musical journey covering 4 decades cutting up killer B-Beats from both classic and obscure Funk, Jazz, and Latin, all the way through to New Wave and everything in between.

You never heard it like this before, guaranteed you'll come back for more... check it out!
Available for purchase in his store.

This is a little footage of Skamrok cutting up breaks on my "Rok With Style" mix CD, these are the actual takes used on the mix. If you like what you hear you can purchase the mix at or to hear more snippets go to: