Tribe Beatmaster Muhammad's 'Garden' Grows

A Tribe Called Quest principal Ali Shaheed Muhammad's Garden Seeker Productions has signed a new deal with Penalty Recordings and Ryko Distribution. Muhammad's solo debut, "Shaheedullah and Stereotype

A Tribe Called Quest principal Ali Shaheed Muhammad's hip-hop oriented Garden Seeker Productions has signed a new deal with Penalty Recordings and Ryko Distribution. Muhammad's solo debut, "Shaheedullah and Stereotypes," will arrive Oct. 12, to be followed later this year or in the first quarter of 2005 by releases from Chip Fu, Kay and Sy Smith. Muhammad is also hoping to sign former Mint Condition member Stokley.

All of those acts appear on "Shaheedullah and Stereotypes," which is dominated by live instrumentation, including some tracks with a horn section. "We're really happy about the Penalty/Ryko partnership," Muhammad tells Billboard.com. "[Penalty CEO] Neil Levine actually worked some Tribe records in my early days when he had an independent marketing company. It's funny how you come back full circle."

Muhammad is hoping to mount a full-band tour later this year in support of the upcoming album. "That's something I really want to do," he enthuses. "I have a lot of vision in that regard."

Also looming on the horizon is A Tribe Called Quest's first live performance in six years, set for Aug. 27 at the San Diego Street Scene Festival. Asked if the group has had time to prepare, Muhammad says with a laugh, "Not at all. Anything can happen. We have five albums' worth to pick from. It's like, 'Wow, what do we do?'"

Although the group reunited last year to record the song "I C U Doin' It" for the yet-to-be-released third "Violator" compilation, Muhammad says a full-fledged reunion with Q-Tip (now known as Kamaal) and Phife Dawg has never moved past the discussion phase.

"I think we're always interested," he says. "We didn't really need [to go into the studio] to make it happen. It's more just people saying, 'We want Tribe.' Kamaal has made a couple of public statements that he feels like he's done as far as A Tribe Called Quest is concerned. It's kind of difficult when someone has that feeling. That pretty much says it."

"But, we're playing a show, so who knows?," he continues. "If it's a great reception, that may build up our confidence to move forward. But when you've done something that feels so complete from beginning to end, it may be a mistake to try and pick it up to move it forward, based on what some people may want to see. There's a lot of uncertainty with doing that."

Also uncertain is Muhammad's status with Lucy Pearl, his project with Raphael Saadiq and Dawn Robinson. "I saw Dawn and Raphael a couple of months ago. We all have interest in talking about [working together] and discussing it, but nothing solid has come up," he says. "But I'll share this with you: Kamaal told me Raphael asked him to be in Lucy Pearl. So, I thought that was interesting."

But Muhammad says Saadiq has yet to share that information with him. "Of course not," he says. "That's the music business. It is weird."