If Q-Tip is a skully cap, “Vivrant Thing,” and a “One Love” chorus, then fellow A Tribe Called Quest member Ali Shaheed Muhammad is a plate of strawberries ‘n cream, two candles, and a few sticks of incense – the yin to Q’s yang.
While Tip has long garnered attention through both his solo venture and his more vocal role as a member of the legendary Tribe, Ali Shaheed has played his role in the background, leading production efforts for the likes of Tribe and his offspring group Lucy Pearl. But, for the first time, he steps out into the limelight for his smooth and sensual solo album, “Shaheedullah and Stereotypes,” that covers everything from the controversial to the caressing in one sexy swoop of Lucy-like material.
Do not expect much talk of Benzes or spinning rims from Shaheed, as he showcases on the first single, “Elevated Orange,” with an angry, amped-up Ali spitting a fitting chorus concerning the stability of the present-day United States of America: “This is what you started, you schemed it, you plotted, you dreamed it, you charged it, Elevated orange! Finish what you started, you reaped it in secret, Your dearly departed, Elevated orange!”
Elsewhere, but few and far between, Shaheed is just as hyper and ready for action, as he chastises the rappers in the game only concerned with thievery, ‘hood talk, and gaudy chains. “You got some food, praising this ghetto life like this s--t’s cool, Blazing and baking, is that all that we can do?” Shaheed asks on “U Suckers,” as he raps “straight from Brooklyn” and gets preachy all over the up-and-comers in the hip-hop industry.
However, the vast majority of “Shaheedullah and Stereotypes” rarely unleashes the beast in Ali Shaheed, and instead sticks to the more soulful, chilled-out rhythms of his past, a la Lucy Pearl. The bouncy “Industry/Life,” has Ali showing up the naysayers with, “You still doubt my beats bang out, Your neck and head nod, selling you out,” while the trendier “Put Me On” features an illustrious production effort climaxing into a symphony of lust all while Ali Shaheed tries his hardest to keep his mind off the eye-catcher coming towards him at the bar.
If Ali Shaheed’s “Stereotypes” suffers from a lack of anything, it is more of Ali himself, as he often appears quite uncomfortable (or just unwilling) to present 3 or 4 minutes solely consisting of him. The twisted-up soft instrumentals of “Honey Child” get endorsed by the rhythmic Sy Smith, while Smith also cosigns on the hip-hop-meets-easy listening vibes of “Part of the Night,” which would easily fit the format of music accompanying the scenery of a trendy nightclub.
Just when he gets off course a bit though (at least for those seeking more in terms of hip-hop), Ali returns with “Banga,” and rightfully spits, “Rarely do I miss, My form is all swish, Them haters on the side with their twisted-up lips, I’m too bonafide, you can’t sink my ship.”
Even with Q-Tip still receiving many of the accolades for the success of Tribe Called Quest and Ali Shaheed receiving little credit for the push of Lucy Pearl, Ali proves that, in the world of hip-hop, he can still hold his own. And even if experimentation is more his thing, he is still the yin the Tip’s yang – and that, in and of itself, makes “Shaheedullah and Stereotypes” a must-listen-to for Tribe, Lucy, and hip-hop fans alike.