A Conversation With Ali Shaheed

Posted by on Oct 12, 2011

 

Ali ShaheedWhen I think back on growing up in Harlem, rocking out at block parties and being that fly girl posted up on the wall of some of the most notorious junior highs school parties, I always remember my favorite hip-hop group, A Tribe Called Quest. From that point on, my alter ego became a woman named Bonita Applebum. This past summer, I ran to the movie theater to witness the true story of this legendary group. I was mesmerized as I watched their first big screen documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest. The culture, the depth and the authenticity of it all thrilled me, but something was different for me.  Ali Shaheed Muhammed really showed a side that I never knew existed. Let’s just say it was very enlightening. -Mashonda

When did it hit you that A Tribe Called Quest was a legendary group?
It was at the 2008 Rock The Bells tour. That’s when it really settled in. For some reason, I’ve never felt comfortable on stage. It’s not that I’m nervous; this has to do with my spirituality. I feel that only the creator deserves any great amount of attention from humanity. Me standing on stage is like me knowing I’m going to be before my creator one day. I don’t want to ever get my ego involved. But when it hit me, I just said, ‘Thank you,’ and kept it moving on to the next moment.

What’s your favorite Tribe song?
I don’t have a favorite tribe song. I have a couple of standouts but not a favorite. They all take me to a certain place. We have songs that you guys have not heard.

How did you feel when you read Q-Tip’s group resignation letter?
I was shocked. I was also understanding. It didn’t hit me that he was going to do the solo thing until years later. These guys are my family. We made a lot of music together, and we’ve done a lot of things together. With that said, it was really about the brotherhood. I didn’t want to be selfish and be like, ‘What about us?’ I’m a very accommodating person. So much that it may annoy people.

Do you still have the letter?
Yes. I still have the letter. Everyone wants that letter.

I recently watched your documentary and even through the most difficult moments you always come across so zen and at peace. Were you always that way?
I don’t think I was always this way, but I learned how to balance life, look over, reflect and self evaluate. I’ve always had a balance of perspective. The guys call me the voice of reason. I get it now, but it was an annoying tag name. Negativity will only cut time off of your life and decreases your enjoyment. It’s a waste of your life being in negativity and not really embracing the opportunity that can come when you embrace something positive.

I’m going to be very honest right now! I don’t know if anyone has told you but you are aging so gracefully, you’re really giving off a lot of sexy nowadays.
[Laughing and blushing] I have heard that I sleep in an oxygen chamber. It’s interesting you ask me that. I’ve been hearing that. I don’t know…it’s God you know. I don’t know what else to say. It’s God. Thanks to Mom and Dad.

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