Q-Tip (musician)

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Q-Tip at Commonwealth Washington, D.C. in 2008.jpg
Q-Tip in Washington, D.C., 2008
Background information
Birth name Jonathan William Davis
Also known as Q-Tip, The Abstract, Kamaal Fareed, Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, The Abstract Poetic, MC Love Child
Born (1970-04-10) April 10, 1970 (age 48)
Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Origin St. Albans, Queens, New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Hip hop
Occupation(s) Rapper, singer, actor, record producer, DJ
Instruments Vocals, keyboards, drums, bass guitar, guitar, turntables, sampler
Years active 1985–present
Labels Jive, Very G.O.O.D. Beats, Arista, Universal Motown, Battery, Def Jam, Epic
Associated acts

Kamaal Ibn John Fareed (born Jonathan William Davis; April 10, 1970), better known by his stage name Q-Tip, is an American rapper, singer, actor, record producer and DJ. He embarked on his music career as part of the critically acclaimed East Coast hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. John Bush of AllMusic called him "the best rapper/producer in hip-hop history",[1] while editors of About.com placed him #17 on their list of the Top 25 Hip-Hop Producers,[2] as well as placing him #38 on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time.[3] In 2012, The Source ranked him #20 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time.[4]

Early and personal life[edit]

Q-Tip was born Jonathan William Davis on April 10, 1970 in Harlem. His father was from Montserrat, a British territory in the eastern Caribbean,[5] and his mother is an African American from Alabama. His sister, Gwen, is five and a half years his elder. He is the cousin of Consequence, who was featured heavily on Beats, Rhymes and Life. According to a DNA analysis, he is descended, mainly, from the Jola people of Guinea-Bissau.[6] He moved to St. Albans, Queens as a child. He attended Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan, New York.

Q-Tip began rapping as a youth, under the name MC Love Child. He was given the nickname "Q-Tip" while in high school by rapper Afrika Baby Bam of the Jungle Brothers.[7] He has also said that the Q in Q-Tip stands for Queens and he is often referred to as Tip. (Rapper T.I. began his career as "TIP", but in 1999 changed his stage name to avoid confusion with Q-Tip.[8]) Throughout his career, Q-Tip has also called himself The Abstract.[9] He said that one of the main people in his life that inspired him was his childhood friend, Mohammed Sead.[9]

He converted to Islam in the mid-1990s, and changed his name to Kamaal Ibn John Fareed.[10]

Q-Tip has lived in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey[11] and nearby Edgewater.[12]


A Tribe Called Quest[edit]

In 1985, Q-Tip, together with friends Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White, founded the critically acclaimed hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. The band signed to Jive Records and released five studio albums during its initial run, splitting up in 1998.

A Tribe Called Quest reunited in 2006 and played a limited number of dates. All members of the original lineup returned for the 2006 group, including Q-Tip and occasional member Jarobi. In 2016, shortly before the death of Phife Dawg, A Tribe Called Quest recorded their sixth album, releasing it in November of the same year.

Solo career[edit]

Outside of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip rapped on the highly successful 1990 track "Groove Is in the Heart" by Deee-Lite, the 1994 Beastie Boys track "Get It Together", the 1995 Mad Skillz track "Extra Abstract Skillz", the 2000 Slum Village track "Hold Tight", and the 2005 The Chemical Brothers track "Galvanize".

After the breakup of Tribe in 1998, Q-Tip pursued a solo career. His first solo singles, "Vivrant Thing" and "Breathe and 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, released in 1999. Pitchfork noted on the change in tenor, remarking, "Abstract the storyteller and social critic [has] been replaced by a scarcely recognizable, sex-obsessed MC."[13]

The release of his 2002 follow-up, Kamaal/The Abstract, was delayed despite critical acclaim and an issued a catalog number; Arista believed that it did not have commercial appeal. It eventually leaked onto the Internet, and the distribution of promotional copies led several publications to run reviews of the album. The album was finally released on September 15, 2009, on Battery Records after being shelved for seven years.

Following his work on Kamaal/The Abstract, Q-Tip featured on R.E.M.'s 2004 album Around the Sun, with a rap on "The Outsiders". Early in 2007, Q-Tip signed a new solo deal with Universal Motown Records. In 2008, Q-Tip appeared on DJ/producer Statik Selektah's first album Spell My Name Right, on the tracks "Stop, Look, & Listen" with Styles P and Termanology.

His third album The Renaissance was released on November 4, 2008, through Universal Motown and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2010 Grammys.[14]

Q-Tip is among a group of producers who were brought in by Kanye West to work on his fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.[15] He appeared in 2010 on Mark Ronson's album, Record Collection, on the song entitled "Bang Bang Bang" with MNDR, for which a video was released. For Kanye West's and Jay-Z's collaborative album Watch the Throne he produced "That's My Bitch" and co-produced "Lift Off". Q-Tip was the headliner at the 2011 Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival with a set called, 'Q-Tip and Friends'. Accompanying him on stage were Monie Love, Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, and Kanye West. In 2013, Q-Tip was featured on Busta Rhymes's "Thank You" and then released a collaboration mixtape titled The Abstract & The Dragon on December 12, 2013. He is currently working on his fourth studio album The Last Zulu.[16]

In March 2016, Q-Tip was appointed as the Kennedy Center's first artistic director for hip-hop culture,[17] curating a series of hip-hop programming for the performing arts center.[18]


As a producer, Q-Tip is a self-proclaimed "perfectionist-at-work" and is known for his innovative and experimental production, which "led a jazz-based hip-hop revolution during the '90s."[19][20][21] He primarily produced the first three A Tribe Called Quest albums, with some assistance from group member Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and with the exception of contributions from Skeff Anselm ("Show Business", "Everything Is Fair", and "8 Million Stories") and Large Professor ("Keep It Rollin'").[7] Q-Tip did production work as part of the production company The Ummah, alongside Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and the late Slum Village member J Dilla. The Ummah produced Tribe's fourth and fifth albums.

Outside of his work with Tribe, Q-Tip produced for such artists as Apache ("Gangsta Bitch", from Apache Ain't Shit, 1993), Run–D.M.C. ("Come on Everybody", from Down with the King, 1993), Crooklyn Dodgers ("Crooklyn", from Crooklyn, Vol. 1, 1994), Nas ("One Love", from Illmatic, 1994), Mobb Deep ("Give Up the Goods (Just Step)", "Temperature's Rising", and "Drink Away the Pain (Situations)", from The Infamous, 1995) and R&B singers Mariah Carey ("Honey", from Butterfly, 1997) and Whitney Houston ("Fine", from Whitney: The Greatest Hits, 2000). He also produced several remixes in the mid-1990s, including those of "The World Is Yours" by Nas, "Temperature's Rising" by Mobb Deep, "Illusions" by Cypress Hill, and "Get Down" by Craig Mack. Q-Tip co-produced jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel's 2003 release Heartcore. He has been involved with producing for Phife Dawg, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, RZA, Wale, Asher Roth, Esperanza Spalding, Chiddy Bang, Pusha T, Melanie Fiona, Mark Ronson, Busta Rhymes, D'Angelo, Questlove, Kanye West, John Legend, and Roc Marciano.

On February 7, 1998, a fire occurred at Q-Tip's home recording studio, completely destroying it; among the items destroyed in the blaze were his entire record collection, consisting of nearly 20,000 vinyl records, and a computer containing many unreleased songs.[22][23][24] He called the fire "symbolic", because he was left with no records to sample, but still had the desire to make music.[7] The following year, he began seeking musicians for a live band, taking drum lessons from Omar Hakim, studying bel canto, and taking piano lessons from Weldon Irvine, whom he sampled for Tribe's "Award Tour" single.[25][24] Q-Tip has since rebuilt his record collection, which now consists of about 9,000 vinyl records.[26]

Community work[edit]

On March 18, 2013, Q-Tip was a Special Guest of Honor for the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding at the home of Def Jam Recordings co-founder, Russell Simmons, who serves as Chairman of The Foundation. Q-Tip was invited by friend Ali Naqvi, who is a Trustee of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Chairman of MindShare Ventures Group in New York City. Q-Tip received this invitation to be Special Guest of Honor, for being one of the most successful Muslim music artists and producers in the world.[27][28][29][30]

DJ work[edit]

Q-Tip regularly acts as a DJ, most notably at Santos Party House where he used to host a weekly residency called Open.[31] At Paper magazine's 2008 Nightlife Awards, OPEN was named "Best DJ Night".[32]

Starting in 2015, Q-Tip has hosted a radio show on Apple Music's Beats 1 station called Abstract Radio, named after his alternate professional name. His intent is "…rather than just follow any sort of current, what's popular…to try [instead] to figure out how to bridge many gaps and bring it all into one singular voice of good music."[33]


Studio albums[edit]

Collaborative albums[edit]

With A Tribe Called Quest


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result
1997 Beats, Rhymes and Life (A Tribe Called Quest) Best Rap Album Nominated
"1nce Again" (A Tribe Called Quest) Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group Nominated
1998 "Honey" (as songwriter) Best R&B Song Nominated
1999 The Love Movement (A Tribe Called Quest) Best Rap Album Nominated
2000 "Vivrant Thing" Best Rap Solo Performance Nominated
2006 "Galvanize" (with The Chemical Brothers) Best Dance Recording Won
2010 The Renaissance Best Rap Album Nominated
2012 Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (A Tribe Called Quest) Best Long Form Music Video Nominated
2014 "Nakamarra" (with Hiatus Kaiyote) Best R&B Performance Nominated
2016 "Go" (with The Chemical Brothers) Best Dance Recording Nominated


  1. ^ Bush, John. (2008-11-04) The Renaissance – Q-Tip. AllMusic. Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
  2. ^ Top 25 Hip-Hop Producers. Rap.about.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
  3. ^ 50 Greatest Rappers of All Time. Rap.about.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
  4. ^ "The Source's Top 50 Lyricists Of All Time **Complete List Inside**". thisis50.com. Archived from the original on 2014-05-04. 
  5. ^ Del F. Cowie"A Tribe Called Quest". Archived from the original on April 16, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2011.  . exclaim.ca. February 2008
  6. ^ "Q-Tip Gets Swabbed & Discovers His African Roots". YouTube. 2012-01-24. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  7. ^ a b c Exclusive: Q-Tip Interview. MOOVMNT.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
  8. ^ T.I. – Profile of Atlanta Rapper T.I. Rap.about.com (1980-09-25). Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
  9. ^ a b Q-Tip, J.Period, "Manwomanboogie", track 35, The [Abstract] Best, Truelements, 2009
  10. ^ "Music: Hip-Hop's Next Wave". Time. December 6, 1999. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  11. ^ Colman, David. "Flat-Panel TVs Sure Look Cool, But They Pose Design Dilemmas", The Wall Street Journal, August 27, 1999. Accessed December 27, 2007. "The rapper Q-Tip has been at the cutting edge of the music world for the past decade. So it was only natural that he'd want the latest for his Englewood Cliffs, N.J., living room: a sleek, flat-panel TV set."
  12. ^ Briggs, Nicole. "Happy Birthday To Edgewater's Q-Tip", Cliffside Park - Edgewater Daily Voice, April 10, 2016. Accessed September 17, 2017. "Happy birthday to Edgewater’s Q-Tip! The rapper, record producer and DJ turns 46 today. He was born April 10, 1970."
  13. ^ "Q-Tip: Amplified". Retrieved 2015-10-01. 
  14. ^ Nominees And Winners Archived December 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.. GRAMMY.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
  15. ^ 'Good Ass Job' Marks Kanye West's Return to 'Real' Hip-Hop | Prefix. Prefixmag.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
  16. ^ a b "Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes Release 'The Abstract & The Dragon' Mixtape: Listen". Billboard. 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  17. ^ "Q-Tip joins Kennedy Center as hip hop director; 2016 schedule announced". WJLA 7. 2016-03-08. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  18. ^ Blistein, Jon (March 8, 2016). "Q-Tip Named Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Hip-Hop". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  19. ^ Seidman, Lacey. "VH1 ALBUM-VERSARIES: A Tribe Called Quest Celebrates The 20th Anniversary Of The Low End Theory (PART I of II)". VH1. Retrieved September 3, 2017. 
  20. ^ Sendra, Tim. "We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest". AllMusic. Retrieved September 3, 2017. 
  21. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Q-Tip - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved September 3, 2017. 
  22. ^ News Flash: Tribe's Q-Tip Loses LPs, Studio In Fire MTV. Accessed on December 20, 2016.
  23. ^ Tribe's Q-Tip Loses Unreleased Songs In Fire MTV. Accessed on December 20, 2016.
  24. ^ a b Q-Tip Red Bull Music Academy. Accessed on December 24, 2016.
  25. ^ Del F. Cowie "Verses From The Abstract". Exclaim!. Retrieved on 2016-12-20.
  26. ^ Q-Tip Gives a Tour of His Home Studio and Record Collection XXL. Accessed on December 20, 2016.
  27. ^ "Russell Simmons Hosts the 2013 Young Leadership Benefit for The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding – Page". Interview Magazine. 2013-03-18. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  28. ^ "The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding". Blacktiemagazine.com. 2013-03-19. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  29. ^ Adrienne Gaffney. "Peace at the Penthouse". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  30. ^ "The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding". Ffeu.org. Archived from the original on 2014-10-08. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  31. ^ Timeout.com Archived July 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  32. ^ Torem, Caroline. (2008-11-17) WORD UP! – About Last Night... PAPER's Fourth Annual Nightlife Awards Presented by Diesel Archived February 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.. Papermag. Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
  33. ^ Andrew Flanagan (2015-07-01). "'You're Playing for the World': Q-Tip Talks About His Beats 1 Radio Show 'Abstract Thought,' Working With Sonos". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-01-15. 

External links[edit]