As a member of A Tribe Called Quest, Ali Shaheed Muhammad was instrumental in bringing Hip Hop to new listeners. With sample-based music that pulled from various genres, ATCQ was equally embraced by music legends of yesteryear and 1980s and 1990s contemporaries in other genre. Speaking recently at Red Bull Music Academy, Shaheed spoke about his individual openness mentally and musically.

“Opening one’s mind is always a beautiful thing, when you close off yourself from receiving information and having certain experiences you lose out on certain aspects of life,” said Ali in part of the lecture not used in the video, given exclusively to HipHopDX. “When it comes to music, it’s not bound by race, it’s not bound by anything, it’s just energy. It’s a great way to spark a conversation, by connecting with a sound of a song or the words of an artist, you can share with someone else who’s listening, you can spark a conversation, it’s a great way to teach certain lessens about history that’s passed down through song. It’s a way for the people of the community to teach it’s youth, it’s upcoming, about what occurred in the past or some sort of historical event. I think it’s advantageous as just a human being on Earth to be open, we all come from different places but we all kind of have the same story. We’re able to see that if we get rid of those barriers and not look at someone from a racial standpoint but from a human standpoint. I think that is one of the beautiful things about music.”   

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More specifically, the member of legendary production team The Ummah spoke about open-mindedness musically. “What I was thinking when I was 19 certainly wasn’t what I am thinking at 41. If I had this conversation with my 19-year-old self, I’d probably be a little reluctant to receive the message completely, wholly. I evolved through allowing these different ideas and sounds, a little from Rock, a little bit from a Classical piece, to a little bit from Blues, to really seep into my soul so when I’m delivering what may be Hip Hop, it’s really a culmination of all of this communication. I’m striving to be a better human being. When you open yourself up, you allow growth and if we’re not growing we’re wasting our time here.”   

Lastly, Ali, who was a founding member of Lucy Pearl, gave advice to young musicians. “I want to make sure that whatever I put into the music, that someone can walk away with something that will help them grow in some capacity as a human being. That’s a responsibility I take on unto myself and is probably one of the reasons I scrutinize everything that I do and involve myself in,” he said. “I think there’s another aspect of making music that is more superficial, which is okay because we don’t all have to be prophets and save the world, but I am aware that my words and my music will last longer than I’m here. For example, what we did today for Red Bull Music Academy, we filmed it and that’ll be around longer than I will be on the Earth and that’s powerful. You want to make sure that whatever your imprint is on the world that it’ll be for the greater good. Yeah, we make money from making music and it’s a way to celebrate life and cut loose and let go, and we need that for the human experience, but still, when I’m dust I want to make sure that whatever is left behind is something someone can use.”

Photo by Kris Perry/Red Bull Content Pool

The full Red Bull interview with Ali Shaheed Muhammad is below:

Lecture: Ali Shaheed Muhammad (Los Angeles 2012) from Red Bull Music Academy on Vimeo.