The Ummah

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The Ummah
Origin New York, New York, U.S.
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Genres Hip hop
Years active 1996–1999
Labels Freelance
Members Q-Tip
Jay Dee
Ali Shaheed Muhammad

The Ummah was a music production collective, composed of members Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and the late Jay Dee (now known as J Dilla) of the Detroit-based group Slum Village. Occasional members included Raphael Saadiq, and D'Angelo. In addition to producing nearly the entirety of A Tribe Called Quest's fourth and fifth albums, the Ummah provided backing tracks and remixes for a notable array of hip hop and contemporary R&B artists, including Busta Rhymes, Whitney Houston, Keith Murray, the Brand New Heavies, Janet Jackson, and Jon B. The group was so named because two of its members (Tip and Ali) are devout Muslims. The word "ummah" is Arabic for "community", "nation", or "brotherhood". Generally, the term refers to the global Muslim population.

Biography[edit]

Background[edit]

The collective took shape around 1995, when veteran keyboardist Amp Fiddler introduced Jay Dee (who at the time was shopping for a deal for his group) to Q-Tip. Tip was impressed enough by Jay Dee's soulful productions to invite him as an addition to Tribe's music-production team, which until then consisted of Tip and Ali Shaheed.

Production work[edit]

Its first work, Beats, Rhymes and Life, was criticized for moving away from the group's earlier, denser, and bottom heavy sound exemplified by tracks such as "Scenario" and "Oh My God." The new sound, which now leaned towards a more laid-back and polished tone, would be embraced a little more with the release of Tribe's "Find A Way" from its fifth and final album, The Love Movement, although the album itself received a lukewarm reception, and no second proper single or video was released.

Following this and the split of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip and Jay Dee continued to collaborate under the Ummah moniker, producing all of Tip's solo album Amplified, with the exception of two tracks from DJ Scratch. For several reasons, including label complications, Tip's solo career became largely inactive while Jay Dee and D'Angelo went on to form the Soulquarians with other like-minded artists. Although A Tribe Called Quest since formed somewhat of a reunion, releasing "ICU (Doin' It)" in 2003, the possibility of the group once again using the Ummah name for future productions seems unlikely, especially since member Jay Dee's death on February 10, 2006, from complications of Lupus.

Despite the well-known projects and collaborations the collective did, people would erroneously assume that The Ummah was another name, or perhaps even an alter-ego of Q-Tip. As a result, contributions by J Dilla would go overlooked and unnoticed. Looking back at the collective's formation and history, in an interview, Q-Tip stated:[1]

That word "Ummah" means brotherhood. But the problem with The Ummah and even now with me with Tribe… With Ummah, just because I was the face, people would automatically assume sometimes, like with that “Sometimes” remix, that I produced it or that I did the beat when it was Dilla. So people would get confused sometimes over that and think that just because I’m the face of it, if it says "The Ummah" it means that I did it or credited it as such. And that wasn’t the case. So he Dilla wanted to make sure that he got known for what he did. So I can emphatize with where Dilla was at because I was at the same place you know?!? My whole idea I think it was a great idea to represent a unit. But from poor management to not really understanding the ramifications of it, it didn’t work to that great idea necessarily. Still in all I think we all were able to make some good music. I saw some people say that I didn’t do the "Get Down" remix, the Craig Mack shit. People were saying Dilla did that but I did that. Then people were saying that I did "Breathe & Stop" but Dilla did that. And they were saying Dilla did "Vivrant Thing" but I did that. You know it’s just all mixed up.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Selected production[edit]

1996[edit]

1997[edit]

1998[edit]

References[edit]