DJ/Producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad is a hip-hop icon. As one-third of legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, his influence and impact on the musical landscape is still felt today. The soft-spoken and contemplative Brooklyn native began a life of music at an early age, spending years DJing parties in his Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood before co-founding Tribe in 1985. The group’s socially conscious lyrics and unique production style is as innovative today as it was two decades ago.
Muhammad carried that classic sound into the production unit The Ummah with Jay Dilla and Q-Tip, and continued working with artists including Faith Evans, Mos Def, and D’Angelo. In 1999, he co-founded the Grammy nominated all-star trio Lucy Pearl with Dawn Robinson, formerly of En Vogue, and Raphael Saadiq, of Tony! Toni! Toné! The group’s organic and sexy fusion of funk, rock, R&B, and hip-hop revealed Muhammad’s growing musical maturity.
After Lucy Pearl, Muhammad focused his attention on his production company and developing new talent. In 2004, he released the very personal and adventurous solo debut LP Shaheedulah and Stereotypes, featuring some of his new proteges. Working on material for a follow-up, Muhammad set up a studio with Martin “Doc” McKinney of Esthero and Weeknd fame, and continued writing and collaborating with other artists as well.
In 2013, Muhammad received an invitation from Adrian Younge to work on fellow Golden Era legends Souls of Mischief’s There Is Only Now, where he narrated the album, playing as well as providing background music to accompany the narration. The results were impressive enough to ignite a creative burst in the two producers that quickly produced an album’s worth of material in a matter of weeks. “He’s such an easy person to work with, he has such vision when it comes to music. We really get each other, and that’s the other fun part of creating and finding a partner you’re on the same wavelength with,” says Muhammad.
Excited to support the album, Muhammad got to work on a ten-track remix album that carefully re-imagined the original. Looking for a different mix and sound, Muhammad shares, “I wanted to make it as emotional and moving as the original compositions. So even though it’s a remix, it has the feeling of an original work, bringing something else to the sound.”
As Muhammad and Younge ready their debut collaborative effort, their musical bond grows stronger. The duo’s studied and immersive brand of hip-hop brings both a sense of musicianship to the genre, and a DJ sensibility to contemporary music making. The sound is a sophisticated blend of Muhammad’s warm jazz-inflected chord progressions, and Younge’s heavy psych-drenched soul learnings that bring jazz, hip-hop, and soul into this century. With appearances including Marsha Ambrosius, Bilal, and Cee Lo, the album is slated for release in 2016.
Bio written by Andre Torres