Ali Shaheed Muhammad Details Native Tongues’ Split and Much More (Audio)
Ali Shaheed Muhammad is among the most high-profile artists-turned-music media host. The founding member of A Tribe Called Quest is part of NPR’s Microphone Check. Along with Frannie Kelley, Ali asks the questions, drives the discussion, and presents the culture through national radio’s far-reaching lens. In a strange turn of events, Ali was a guest on his own show’s podcast. The DJ/producer from A.T.C.Q. and Lucy Pearl was interviewed by his co-host, something he admits made him a bit apprehensive. However, the soft-spoken veteran discussed issues rarely heard, and deeply valuable to his fans, and participants of Hip-Hop culture. Here’s a rundown:
(11:00 – 16:00) Asked about his opinion of Rap that’s created today, Ali stated that “there are those who vibrate energy higher than others.” He expanded on this philosophical statement, by talking about how artist’s have more privileges in today’s world. “The rappers now have been given so many privileges, but have been over-exposed and the way they manage that exposure is disappointing.” The 44 year-old then talked about his interpretation on how the “gap” was created. As each generation talks about how their music was the best of their time, Ali expanded on this by saying, “If you are leaving the world in a mess, you can’t blame the next generation. […] The Hip-Hop history predecessor is harsh and not nice to the next generation. It creates that gap, and the old school doesn’t really respect the art, likewise [neither does] the younger generation.”
(26:00 – 27:30) Further in the interview, Ali Shaheed began discussing the legendary DJ Red Alert. Aside from being A Tribe Called Quest’s former manager, Ali said Red Alert was the only one that stood out when it came to the influence he had over New York, and breaking seminal Rap records on the radio. Few may realize that Kool DJ Red Alert helped Ali, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Jarobi in their earliest days, before super manager Chris Lighty and Violator would take over.
(27:30 – 34:00) Speaking of Violators, Ali spoke openly about the early days of Native Tongues. The Queens, New York native talked about the enjoyment of the process of creating music with everyone involved, which included De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders Of The New School, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and others. He spoke on how the breakthrough Native Tongue’s first collabo, 1989’s “Buddy” was “very literal.” Further questioned by Frannie Kelley, Ali added, “We just had so much fun creating that song,” Ali told NPR about the sexual innuendo-driven single from the De La Soul smash, 3 Feet High and Rising. Shaheed later discussed how 1990s business created a split between the Tribe members and De La Soul. “[De La Soul] were making moves that we thought was a little aggressive,” Ali said to NPR about De La Soul’s choice of business and management. The rift would later lead to the perceived wedge within Native Tongues.
This comprehensive part-one discussion includes insights on religion, Ali Shaheed’s accord in his radio role as opposed to his opinions as a B-boy, and much more. This is a rare portal to the mind of the (oft-perceived) quietest member of Tribe.