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Ali Shaheed Muhammad: 'Use music the right way'.

A Tribe Called Quest star Ali Shaheed Muhammad says musicians need to recognise the power of a song and use it the right way...

As a DJ and producer, Ali Shaheed Muhammad believes the message behind a tune is as important as how it sounds. The 42-year-old star of A Tribe Called Quest - one of the most respected bands in the history of hip hop - will be hitting the decks in Dubai on Thursday after spending the past few months on the road DJing while working on the title track for John Legend's new album.

During his travels, Ali has enjoyed seeing what is new on the music scene and says there are some very talented MCs and producers out there - a particular favourite of his just now is California rapper Ab Soul.

Famous for the hits 'Can I Kick it?' and 'Bonita Applebum', A Tribe Called Quest are still regarded as pioneers of alternative hip hop music

However, Ali admits to feeling that musicians often fail to use the power of music as much as they could. He says: "You have an amazing level of music that doesn't really reflect love and unity, progression, innovation. Unfortunately that's the only thing that's missing."

Having used music to do everything from challenge stereotypes to question politics throughout his career, Ali believes there's still much that musicians, and the general population, need to do.

"There's been a lot of achievements made - in terms of government and city politics - to bring different ethnicities together but as much as there is progression, there's still a void," he says.

"I don't think you can blame the young - the young are not in control of the media.

"There's someone else in control and if we don't challenge the people who are in the boardrooms, who are implementing the direction of the newspapers and magazines, then nothing's going to change and the youth will be doomed because we're not giving them anything better in terms of direction, in terms of opportunity, even creating opportunity to help them improve communities."

Famous for the hits 'Can I Kick it?' and 'Bonita Applebum', A Tribe Called Quest are still regarded as pioneers of alternative hip hop music and have inspired fellow musicians who are now getting their message across using the internet as a media platform.

There are drawbacks to relying on the web, however, admits Ali. He says: "The internet makes it so much easier for independent artists to get the music to the fans but without the major outlets there's a lot more work involved.

"Fans have to be so into the music that they're willing to go searching blogs and internet radio to find that hip hop or whatever genre of music they're into that's more fulfilling to the spirit."

Ali has been working hard on getting the message just right for his own studio album - a task not helped by the mass praise heaped on A Tribe Called Quest.

He explains: "I'm aware of how high the bar has been set based on previous work and although I wouldn't say it makes me nervous, it makes me more conscientious.

"I don't know if that's a good or bad thing but that's certainly the process. That's why it takes me forever to put out an album!"

eve.dugdale@ 7days.ae

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Sep 10, 2012
Words:566
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