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The Ummah

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

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. Although Tip wasn’t taken by Slum Village as a whole, he was impressed enough by Jay Dee’s deeply soulful productions to invite him as a permanent, although largely unseen, 4th member of A Tribe Called Quest. Their first work, Beats, Rhymes and Life, was criticized for moving away from the group’s earlier, more dense, and bottom heavy sound exemplified by tracks such as “(We’ve Got) Jazz” and “Oh My God”. The new sound which now leaned towards a more laid back, polished, tone would be embraced a little more with the release of Tribe’s “Find A Way” from their fifth and final album The Love Movement, although the album itself received a lukewarm reception, and no second proper single or video was released.

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