Kamaal Ibn John Fareed (born April 10, 1970), better known by his stage name Q-Tip, is an American entertainer from St. Albans, Queens, New York, part of the critically acclaimed group A Tribe Called Quest. John Bush of Allmusic called him “the best rapper/producer in hip-hop history,” while editors of About.com placed him on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers, as well as placing him on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007), making him the only rapper/producer on the list.
Born Jonathan Davis on April 10, 1970 in Harlem, he converted to Islam in the mid-1990s, and changed his name to Kamaal Ibn John Fareed. He moved to St. Albans, Queens as a child. As referenced in the song “Check the Rhime”, he mostly resided at Linden Boulevard. His father was from Montserrat, a British territory in the eastern Caribbean. His mother is an African-American from Alabama. His sister, Gwen, is eight years older than he is. He attended Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan, New York. According to Fareed, he was given his stage name by Afrika Baby Bam of Jungle Brothers, which he used as a replacement for his prior name, MC Love Child. He has also said that the Q in Q-Tip stands for Queens and he is often referred to as Tip, which later caused problems when a Southern rapper, now known as T.I., signed to Arista Records and attempted to use the stage name Tip, which was later shortened to T.I. to avoid confusion with his then-labelmate Q-Tip. Throughout his career, he also called himself “The Abstract”. He said that one of the main people in his life that inspired him was his childhood friend, Mohammed Sead.
Q-Tip produced the first three A Tribe Called Quest albums almost entirely by himself, with the exception of contributions from Skeff Anselm (Eight Million Stories, Everything Is Fair) and Large Professor (Keep It Rolling). Q-Tip also did production work as part of the production company The Ummah (for the fourth and fifth Tribe albums, many remixes, and assorted other projects), alongside fellow Tribe member Ali Shaheed Muhammad and the late Slum Village member Jay Dee. Outside of his work with Tribe, Q-Tip also produced for such artists as Nas (“One Love”, from Illmatic, 1994), Mobb Deep (“Give up the Goods (Just Step)“, “Temperature’s Rising“, and “Drink Away the Pain“, from The Infamous, 1995) and R&B singers Mariah Carey (“Honey“, from Butterfly, 1997) and Whitney Houston (“Fine“, from Whitney: The Greatest Hits). He co-wrote and featured in Janet Jackson‘s song “Got ’til It’s Gone” from the Velvet Rope album in 1997. He co-produced jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel’s 2003 release Heartcore. He is/has been involved with producing for Esperanza Spalding, Mary J. Blige, RZA, Wale, Asher Roth, Chiddy Bang, Melanie Fiona, Mark Ronson, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Phife Dawg, D’Angelo, Questlove, and Kanye West (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). Q-Tip is also involved in the production of the Kanye West/Jay-Z album Watch the Throne.
A Tribe Called Quest disbanded in 1998, after which Q-Tip pursued a solo career. His first solo singles, “Vivrant Thing” and “Breathe & Stop“, were far more pop-oriented than anything he had done in A Tribe Called Quest, as was his solo debut LP for Arista Records, Amplified. His 2002 follow-up, Kamaal/The Abstract, although critically acclaimed and issued a catalog number, wasn’t released at that time because the label believed that it did not have commercial appeal. Q-Tip also featured on R.E.M.‘s album Around The Sun during this period, with a rap on “The Outsiders”. Kamaal/The Abstract was finally released on September 15, 2009, on Battery Records after being shelved for seven years.
A Tribe Called Quest reunited in 2006 and played a limited number of dates. The group was composed of its original lineup, including Q-Tip and occasional member Jarobi White. Early the next year, Q-Tip signed a new solo deal with Motown/Universal Records.
As of late, Q-Tip has been very active, once again happily reunited with the full line-up of A Tribe Called Quest on the 2K7 NBA Bounce Tour, Rock the Bells Tour ’08, and regaining control of his previously label-owned MySpace page. He has announced that he is negotiating for the ownership of the masters of earlier material from his previous labels and plans to release them independently. His latest album The Renaissance was released on November 4, 2008, through Universal Motown and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2010 Grammys. Q-Tip is among a group of producers (also including RZA and Pete Rock) who were brought in by Kanye West to work on his fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He also appeared on Mark Ronson‘s album, Record Collection, on the song entitled Bang Bang Bang with MNDR, for which a video was released.
He also appeared on DJ/Producer Statik Selektah‘s first album, Spell My Name Right, on “Stop, Look, & Listen” with Styles P & Termanology.
- Grammy Awards
- 2010, Best Rap Album: (The Renaissance), Nominee
- 2006, Best Dance Recording: “Galvanize,” Winner (shared with The Chemical Brothers)
- 2000, Best Rap Solo Performance: “Vivrant Thing”, Nominee
- 1999, Best R&B Song: “Honey”, Nominee
- MTV Video Music Awards
- 2000, Best Hip-Hop Video: “Vivrant Thing”, Nominee
As a DJ
Fareed regularly acts as a disc jockey, most notably at Santos Party House where he hosted a weekly residency called OPEN. At Paper Magazine‘s 2008 Nightlife Awards, OPEN was named “Best DJ Night”. He currently hosts a Friday Night Party at NYC’s Ace Hotel as well as Yotel.