The hip-hop world lost a founding father in March when Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest died at the age of 45.
Groups from ATCQ's era are sometimes written about in hushed tones, with the kind of reverence normally saved for artists who once made incalculable contributions but aren't exactly making new waves in their field anymore.
This is not the case with A Tribe Called Quest.
If there was any question about that fact, they answered it this week with We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service, the group's first album in 18 years. (Phife named the record; the other members have since said they don't quite understand it, but kept the title after his death.) The album is equal parts personal and political; it's a tall order for an album that comments on nearly two decades of American history -- including the entirety of the George W. Bush administration, and the near-collapse of the physical record industry itself -- but if anyone's up to the task, it's going to be Tribe.
Over the course of those nearly two decades, DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad -- the group member who's always been both literally and figuratively in the background -- has worked steadily. He formed an R&B group with former members of En Vogue and Tony! Toni! Toné!; he released a solo album, Shaheedullah and Stereotypes, in 2004. More recently, he's been the co-host of the NPR podcast Microphone Check; he also stepped into a crucial, somewhat tongue-in-cheek role as a fictional radio DJ for Souls of Mischief's underrated 2014 concept album, There Is Only Now.
All of which is to say, the guy who provides ATCQ's backbone has never seemed complacent, nor stepped out of stride with the hip-hop world. His style as a DJ reflects that steadfastness, on display when he appears this Friday, Nov. 18 at 1015 Folsom. There are, certainly, many other reasons to check out this party, one of which is to mark the 20th anniversary for the LA-based underground funk/house/hip-hop label Stones Throw. (Label founder and producer/DJ Peanut Butter Wolf co-headlines.)
But Ali Shaheed Muhammad's billing as "special guest" at this party belies something real about the influence of groups like A Tribe Called Quest -- when you do it right, you influence waves of generations to come. Every DJ or producer named on this event's poster likely studied, at one time, the beats and pulses of The Low End Theory. In that sense, if you've ever loved hip-hop: here's an opportunity to see a masterclass, a celebration of the past and a nod to the future all in one.
Ali Shaheed Muhammad is featured at the Stones Throw 20th Anniversary show at 1015 Folsom this Friday, Nov. 18 at 10pm; tickets ($20) and more info here.