Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Shaheedullah and Stereotypes

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The third and last Tribe Called Quest member to release a solo album, Ali Shaheed Muhammad not only had much to prove but also much to say compared to his former bandmates, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. As a strictly instrumental part of Tribe (mostly as a DJ, also as a producer), Muhammad never had a voice previously, and as a long-practicing Muslim, he obviously had a clear message to bring. Shaheedullah and Stereotypes balances his life as a Muslim and also an American, featuring a barrage of message tracks dealing with topics from education to race relations to love and family to spirituality, although he has guest vocalists to proclaim many of his points. (Not by coincidence, all of them are members of his Garden Seeker production company -- Chip-Fu formerly of Fu-Schnickens, Stokley Williams of Mint Condition, Sy Smith, and Kay Jay.) Muhammad's productions are understated, most of them relying on the Tribe blueprint of fuzzy keys and pointed beats, but also including several songs with a full live band. The highlights -- "Industry/Life" and "All Right (Aight)" featuring his own vocals, and "Put Me On" led by Williams -- are pleasant R&B jams that spring out of simple riffs and meander about for several minutes before fading out. Nobody's blaming him for having rappers several cuts below his Tribe regulars, but Shaheedullah and Stereotypes is a troublesome record. With few clear targets and few hooks to spark an audience, Muhammad never produces a track half as kinetic or catchy as A Tribe Called Quest did on a regular basis.

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