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Ali Shaheed Muhammad Talks “CPR” Single, Donating To The Eric Garner Fund + Joint Project With Adrian Younge


When a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner, Ali Shaheed Muhammad knew he needed to say something. The A Tribe Called Quest member decided to confront what he saw as blatant injustice in the Garner case by channeling his energy into a new record.

Ali partnered with fellow entertainers/activists Merna, JaPoet, and David Luke to construct the #BlackLivesMatter themed song “CPR.” The 25 year Hip Hop veteran refers to “CPR” as the first track he ever created without his ego being the motivation.

Beyond dropping “CPR” and marching in the streets, Ali is further bringing awareness to reforming America’s justice system by calling for new legislation on rules of police engagement. The Brooklyn-bred producer/emcee is also promoting cooperation with civil rights and community organizations to address the civic and social concerns underscored by the killing of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and other unarmed minorities at the hands of law enforcement.

AllHipHop.com recently spoke with Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Part one of the exclusive interview covers the making of “CPR” and another major collaborative effort on the near horizon.

[ALSO READ: Ali Shaheed Muhammad Ft. Merna, JaPoet & David Luke – “CPR”]

“CPR” is a very powerful statement about what is taking place in the country right now. At what point did you decide you wanted to address those issues?

It was when the announcement was made that the grand jury in the case of Eric Garner against the police officer decided not to indict him. I think Ferguson was upsetting, and I instantly went out and protested then. The news of Eric Garner – it definitely was like somebody punched me in my gut and took all my wind out. Not only just the wind out of myself, but everything that my father, my mother, my grandparents, and all my ancestors fought for in this country.

To get to that kind of injustice, especially after there being clear proof that he was murder by law enforcement… I cried for maybe like 5 hours. At that point I stopped crying and it hit me – make a song. Make a song expressing how you’re feeling.

How did you pull together the different artists on the track?

I’d been working with Merna. While that ruling was read, she and I had been writing a song together. I had to tell her, “Let me call you back and figure something out.”

Later that morning, when I had the idea of me doing something, I reached out to David Luke, one of the producers in my camp. I don’t know why I wanted his voice on there. I know that David is an emcee, but our working relationship is more as a producer.

He’s an incredible songwriter and beat maker, but I just had it in me to ask him to listen to this song to see if he would be part of it. David is a young father. He has a three-year-old son. I felt like he would understand. Just to get that young father’s voice – What’s the world going to be like for your child?

After that, I sent it to Merna. I didn’t instantly hear a singing part, but I just knew that Merna’s music is in a sense of calling out a certain type of oppression. I felt like her spirit in what she and her people, the Palestinians, have gone through in being oppressed… I felt she would have something to say.

JaPoet is another artist that I work with, and someone that is slightly younger than I am. Knowing that he’s a prolific poet, I felt that he too would be able to add his emotion. I didn’t have anything specific I thought he could bring, but I just wanted him to put his Black male perspective on tape.

Ali Shaheed-Equality Tees

You’re also selling t-shirts to raise proceeds for the Eric Garner Family Fund?

I made the song strictly from the perspective of “I’m an artist,” and I didn’t know what else to do outside of marching and lifting my voice. I didn’t want to sell the song. I just wanted to put it out. Then I also thought of the word “equality” while I was making the song. It’s a basic word. It’s what we all want from this situation, just to be treated as equal.

So I came up with this idea of “equality” as a shirt, and I thought it could be cool if something was done with it. Merna also said, “What about donating the proceeds to the Eric Garner family?” I said, “Yeah, that would be dope.” So I did it.

In addition to that, I wanted to do more than just give to the Eric Garner Family Fund. I wanted to put a word out there for people if they also want to do that. I think there are other organizations that we need to support to fight those legal battles. There’s the National Urban League, the NAACP, and the ACLU. I feel people should donate to these organizations, and if not money, then time. Use those resources to help battle these injustices.

With the release of “CPR,” are you thinking about releasing a sophomore solo album?

I’ve been working on a solo record, so that’s something for my 2015. I’m doing a couple of things. There’s a record with Adrian Younge. He and I are working on an album together. That’s slated for early 2015. I’m working on my solo record for mid-2015.

It’s interesting. There’s nothing out there that sounds like what [Younge and I] are doing. It’s pretty exciting.

To purchase Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s ≠quáḽįty apparel visit here.

Follow Ali Shaheed Muhammad on Twitter @alishaheed and Instagram @alishaheed.

[ALSO READ: Federal Investigation Launched In Chokehold Death Of Eric Garner]

  • Reblogged this on HUEY mix wit RILEY.

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  • Miss.S

    that dudes DJ set was possibly one of the best things in the history of this website!

  • William Witherz

    Ali Shaheed Muhammad got me doin calisthenics.

  • Bob

    There was a terrorist in A Tribe Called Quest ? WTF ?? I don’t know if I can ever listen to “Award Tour” the same way again. What were they REALLY talking about ?

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  • Montezuma1

    Eric Garner was too old to be talking shyt and not ready to act. His posture and demeanor alternated between defiance and passive aggression. Playing the victim doesn’t work too well when you’re a large black man. The tape starts with him stating “I’M TIRED OF THIS SHYT!” He quickly retreated to “I’m minding my own business officer and you mess with me every day.” Well that’s what cops do when you’re on the block every day and how does a man support himself and six kids selling cigarettes anyway? Not trying to be funny but selling loosies couldn’t even pay his grocery bill. Ni99a you know why the police mess with you so just shut up and get to stepping. The last thing he said before “I can’t breathe” was “Don’t touch me” as the police went to put the cuffs on him. Prior to that he said “This ends today!.” Eric invited the police with his hustle then repeatedly challenged them. He did everything you shouldn’t do when confronted by police ESPECIALLY if you’re on some bullshyt. I’m not gonna sit here and act like this fool didn’t play a significant role in his own demise.

    Should the cop have let him go once he was down? Absolutely. But why put your fate in the cop’s hands when you can use your brain and live another day? I’m sorry I have no sympathy for a grown azz man trying to use his size to intimidate only for it to backfire. While we’re marching for justice and wearing “I can’t breathe” t-shirts let’s all try to be smarter. Seems to me smart people live longer.

    • Damany G

      you must be gearing up for a job at Fox news….. SMH

      • Montezuma1

        That ni99a was too big to be selling woof tickets. “This ends today!!!” It sure did but not the way he bluffed! All he had to do was shut up and he’d be alive. Ni99as take this victim shyt to heart even when not a victim. Ni99a out there every day doing whatever he do and complaining like he pay taxes. Ok.

      • Damany G

        Wow! the bottom line is he was killed by an illegal chokehold by an officer of the law…. Period. This justification you are spewing is the same ideology that is the basis of white supremacy.

        Same thing when Emitt Till was savagely murdered by men who got off the hook. “He shouldn’t have talked/”flirted” with a white woman.

        You and Charles Barkley….. SMH!

      • Montezuma1

        Emitt Till was a CHILD in Jim Crow South who wasn’t a petty criminal, I hardly see any correlation between the two. Garner facilitated his own demise with his own ignorance and stupidity. The chokehold is indeed illegal as is selling untaxed cigarettes, loitering, resisting arrest, etc. The problem is Garner was in the wrong and he’s so accustomed to being in the wrong he felt the police were unfairly targeting him by doing their JOB. No their job wasn’t to choke him and kill him but he’s the idiot who took it to that point. He escalated with the typical ni99a bullshyt. When you’re wrong just be easy but no, here he was trying to take a stand and draw a line in the sand. “This stops today!” Oh really? And what if it doesn’t? Can’t you see that was a threat? I support justice for Trayvon and even Mike Brown because clearly Wilson was out to kill someone but Garner? Nah B. I’m not going to be blinded by race. He asked for that, repeatedly and he got it. The force was excessive but would you rather be right and dead or smart and alive? Would you instruct your son to follow Garner’s blueprint? Yes or no? That’s the bottom line for me. He was too old to be so stupid.

      • Damany G

        The connection is the justification that certain behavior deserves these types of consequences. I have been harassed and stopped for no other reason but the obvious and have a right to express my displeasure at injustice towards me.
        Why do we have to be subservient when we are being confronted?. You act like the cops are not aggressive and disrespectful in their approach. He asked for that?….. tell that to his family?

      • Montezuma1

        Subservient? No. Pursue legal action and recourse. Sidewalk arguing doesn’t accomplish anything. File complaints. Press charges. Etc. Those complaints add up and may be all the difference when a cop crosses the line. Arguing with a police officer is an exercise in futility. My point from the start is not that the cop was right but Garner was too old to not know better. There’s a class of people who think they can do whatever they choose but the reality is none of us can. Playing by the rules is not being subservient. I don’t say shyt to police. I provide ID and that’s that. If they want to search that’s ok with me but I got nothing to say to them. Powerless people too often make the mistake of trying to exercise power at the worst possible time. Watch Garner, he felt like he was in control. The white boys knew they had the upper hand the whole time so they just let him talk until they heard enough. The problem with black folk is we put way too much stock in talk. Talk is cheap. Either make your move or STFU. Ni99as need to learn this.

      • Damany G

        We have 2 different perspectives and the fact that you would voluntarily give the cops the right to search when there is no reason to (probable cause) says a lot.

      • Montezuma1

        Give them the right? NEWSFLASH: There’s the by the book way people in la la land hold onto and then there’s the real way. If you tell a cop he can’t search your car he’ll simply detain you until the dogs come. Who got time for that? Not me. If I know I’ve done nothing wrong I’m trying to be about my business and be on my way. Try telling a cop he’s violating your “rights.” You better do it in a court with an attorney as your mouth piece. Don’t try that shyt on the side of the road at night. Your word against his? You see what happened when Garner said don’t touch me. He was exercising his “rights” too. Don’t be like Garner. DOA

      • William Witherz

        Newsflash: The man didn’t even have cigarettes on him!

        In your world as long as we just shut up and listen to the cops who abuse their power within the system, we can use the same system to”file a complaint” against those cops and we’ll have our day in court where we can hire a lawyer and sue. We may not win nothing but at least we’ll be alive! Cmon son.

        Tell me how this is different than a slave saying “why you always gotta talk back to massuh? Just be quiet and then he won’t whip us as much! We not doing nothing wrong so just let him do his talkin!”

        Have you ever seen how kind many cops are to belligerent white people? Do you think Eric Garner had the means to sue and have his day in court? It’s a shame how many black apologists there are. Barkley wannabes say “we know the system, just act accordingly within it and you won’t lose your life…”

      • Montezuma1

        He didn’t have any that day but it’s understood that’s how he explained his livelihood. Yes when you are a criminal you need to shut up. People in the wrong need to stop deluding themselves they did nothing wrong.

      • I agree with Monte here.
        Don’t be fooled by the media,
        they are hyping all this up to
        separate people. I am against
        police brutality, but many of our
        people also do stupid stuff.
        Why doesn’t the police go after
        Asians if they are so racist?
        or Arabs? We black people are
        not learning from mistakes or
        anything at all. We are taking
        pride over everything for any
        thing useless.

    • Bob

      Being an idiot doesn’t warrant a death sentence, sorry.

      • Montezuma1

        You can learn a lot from a dummy.

    • B.U.

      FOH wit that dog. Ain’t nobody tryna hear that overseer logic.

      • Montezuma1

        Ok. Do what he did and get what he got. That’s not gonna change cause you’re a rebel in your own mind.

      • B.U.

        Ok but that’s the whole point of contention. He shouldn’t have gotten what he got for doing what he did because he didn’t do anything. He made no physical or verbal threat toward them. He got choked out simply because that cop was itching to take him down and found the slightest little reason to do so. They weren’t afraid of Eric Garner, they just wanted him to shut up and bow to their authority.

      • Montezuma1

        He was protesting being harassed daily for selling cigarettes. He didn’t have any on him but he’s out there doing more than breaking up fights every day. Personally, I don’t believe he sold cigarettes or if he did that’s all he sold. He had way too much responsibility to be a guy selling loosies. Why is that important? Because it could explain why cops suspected him and why he was so adamant in his denials. Have you ever been suspected of selling cigarettes? He gave the police an ultimatum. “This stops today!” Followed by resisting arrest, “Don’t touch me.” If all of that is “nothing” to you then you’re a strong candidate to end up dead for “nothing.” Garner was a jack ass plain and simple and I have no sympathy for him. He tried bluffing the way he probably bluffed all the time on the block with his competitors but this time it was the police. I’m not saying he deserved to die I’m just pointing out he did things that should not be replicated. Namely, mouthing off and resisting arrest. Police will beat a white man’s ass for doing what Garner did. I’ve seen it. Garner is not typical of the average black man who’s profiled and subjected to police harassment. He actually is the type of person police should be engaging. Like many people doing wrong he tried to pretend he was singled out for his race when the truth is he was singled out for being a petty criminal and nuisance.

      • B.U.

        How about pointing the finger at the assailant and not the victim. You said yourself, he didn’t deserve to die. You said yourself, he didn’t have any cigarettes on him. How does the statement, “this stops today”, equate to an ultimatum? What exactly was the ultimatum anyway? Since when did “don’t touch me” mean someone is resisting arrest? And while this is definitely about race, that is the secondary issue. The real issue is about over policing the poor. Just happens to also be a fact that blacks and latinos are disproportionately poor.

      • Montezuma1

        Um, when they’re putting cuffs on you and you say don’t touch me that’s pretty much resisting. lol “This stops today” is an empty threat but still a feeble attempt at force. Especially when stated by a 400 lb over six foot behemoth. Over policing the poor is a different conversation that has nothing to do with Garner. Garner’s own family claims he was selling cigarettes. I believe they were quick to claim that to divert from other possible activities. The dummy was smart enough not to have anything on him but dumb enough to over play his hand. He miscalculated. He had an audience. He didn’t want to seem like a punk. Not Big E. I’m from the hood so I see this bullshyt all the time. Don’t you see if we uphold Garner as complete innocent it undermines all legitimate protests of actual innocents? The police do what the police do. I just avoid them. I say little to them. I’ve carried firearms for longer than you were alive and never so much got stopped. Although at a video shoot in QB once the police did think I was in charge and approached me about a permit with my 380 in my back pocket. The problem with the whole movement is we got people assuming identities and acting like they know how shut goes and they don’t. They just want to protest to have purpose. Garner was a bum azz ni99a. A stupid one. He was 10yrs past his life expectancy from what I see. That’s the harsh reality. If you identify with him only you know why. I don’t. I don’t identify with stupid asses. Dummies don’t understand the game is mental not physical. He could’ve easily used a different approach and been good. The police aren’t that smart either but they’re smarter than the dumb ni99as like Garner. I’m done.

      • B.U.

        You been done homie. You’re not interested in justice, you just want to survive.

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